In order to pull off our adventure, we made quite a few upgrades while also keeping on top of all of the maintenance that helps keep Bueller purring nicely. Here's a summary of some of the improvements we've made along the way.Read More
The Bueller crew makes their way East along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and meets up with some old friends in the hurricane hole of Luperon before pushing off to make a weather window over to a fancy yet affordable marina in Samana.Read More
By Jackie Leavitt
(Check out her original post and more of her writing at http://jackie-leavitt.com/?p=240)
Logan swaggered from the crashing waves toward our small group standing on the beach edge of one of the Seven Brother islands off the Monte Cristi coast in the Dominican Republic. He clutched in one hand a long, yellow spear with three pointy prongs at the top, one of which with a bright blue-and-purple Caribbean lobster perfectly skewered from chest to tail. He held it aloft as he came closer, his victory prize from battling and vanquishing the ocean.
After the sun sank behind the horizon, we piled into our inflatable dinghy and motored slowly back to our 38-foot Beneteau sailboat, Bueller. The sky was still glowing gold and rose with inky purple clouds when we got to the back swimming ladder. As Travis boarded the boat, he twisted the sea creature in opposite directions until it separated in half. I mentally gasped in horror. As a born and (mostly) raised New Englander, I can tell you with certainty: That is not how you handle your lobster. Everyone (or so I thought) knows you boil that baby whole before dismemberment.
“That’s where all the meat is, because these lobsters don’t have claws,” Lars casually explains to my questioning. I hold back from informing him how incorrect he is — an extra half of the meat is in the front side. But the deed is done, and the head was already sinking down to the ocean bottom.
Unfortunately, we never even got to eat that poor lobster tail that night, and it withered away in our lukewarm fridge until we had to toss it back into the water, completing the cycle of ocean life and death. Instead, a couple days later, we bought two lobsters from a local fisherman for 250 pesos a pound: the first about half the size as the other. And when the boys on board began discussing cooking techniques, soon I convinced them to let me steam both lobsters whole in a pot with the promise to show them how to truly dismember the prickly beasts to get every last bit of meat, from tail to spiny legs to head.
You see, any true New Englander would scoff at the concept that the meat is only in the tail. That’s just where the easy stuff is. The more shell cracking, juice splattering and joint splintering, the greater the reward in both flesh and pride. Most coastal folk, especially from Maine or Cape Cod, would agree that it would be sacrilege to only eat a tail and claws. There have been several occasions where, after I finished my tail, claws, head and larger lobster leg knuckles — thinking to myself that it was a job well-done — my dad would survey my plate pooling in greenish juice and ask skeptically, “You’re done?”, before swiftly stealing my dish away to pick at the ribs and remaining leg knuckles. He might only get whispers of flavor and tissue, but it was the moral that mattered.
So here I am in Monte Cristi, with the two lobsters turned brownish-red from steaming, with my only towel tied around my neck, pliers and my Leatherman to my side like surgeon tools, and massive, black fishing gloves on my hands to protect them from the creatures’ spiny thorns that prick into my palms and fingers. Lars, Logan and Travis look on as I systematically and methodically move through the steps, taught to me by my dad, likely learned from his dad and his dad before him.
Hold the steamed lobster with both hands. Twist until it separates into tail and body. Set aside the head on a plate to catch the seeping salt water and green gut sludge (that some people eat — I don’t). Twist off the tail’s round fins, creating a hole at the shell’s smaller end. Push the meat with your thumb until it pops out of the shell in one gigantic and glorious piece. Devein. Move on to the body. Break off the legs at the body joints. Separate the knuckle joints on each leg. Use the pliers to crush each leg section to get the thin string of meat beneath. Use pliers to crack apart the head. Pluck the hunk of meat near the antennas …and so forth.
After an hour, I piled on a plate all the pillaged lobster meat, separating the white tails from the rest of the wispy red meat to prove my long, drawn-out point: Another tail’s worth of lobster resulted from the satisfying crunching of less-valued body parts. I pulled off my towel bib and washed my hands with lemon water to remove the lingering seafood smell. The job was done.
But I still felt a drop of dissatisfaction as I looked at the pile of shells, including a few of the tiniest knuckles left uncracked. I know deep down that my dad would have done better. But we all need to aspire to something greater, don’t we?
We're about to go on a little time hop, video recapping the first leg of Bueller's journey in the Bahamas. Rob Andrews here, I just finished editing the amazing footage we got through the first 2 weeks of Bueller's journey. To say I miss being on the boat with captains Lars and Travis and my sail-mates Peter and Rishee is an understatement. It was one of the most incredible journeys of my life, and I am dying to join back up again later this year if it works out. For now check out this video which attempts to portray what life on Bueller is like. Sailing in all kinds of conditions, beautiful scenery, fresh fish, failed backflips (that was me!) and more. I could have made this video twice as long easily, lots of great stuff didn't make the cut. Lars, Travis...you guys are living the dream. Thank you for letting me be a temporary part of it.
…aaand we’re back! The last three weeks we’ve had a bit of culture shock as the Bueller crew departed Georgetown, Exumas and sailed straight south to the forbidden land of Cuba. With Obama’s announcement in December last year that we made significant improvements in relations between the US and Cuba (LINK), we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit this beautiful country before making our way further east towards the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands. We’re a little behind on posts as there was little to no internet there so let the storytelling begin.
Sailing to Cuba from Georgetown, Exumas
Although we ended up spending two more weeks in Georgetown than we planned because of our heat exchanger fiasco, we made good use of this time and by knocking out other boat projects while also gathering recommendations from fellow sailors on future destinations such as Cuba. With Cuba being only 150 miles south of Georgetown, there were a number of cruisers who had not only been here recently but who sail down every year. They had plenty of useful nuggets to share that we’ll pass along so expect a future blog post with these as well as a few tips of our own added to the mix.
The closest Cuban Port of Entry to us in Georgetown was Puerto de Vita which is a very small town just 60 miles south of Hog Cay in the Ragged Islands, Bahamas. Even though it was crazy calm and we had to motor much of the way, it felt crazy good to be using the boat for its true purpose rather than just a floating motorhome. Our three day trip down to Hog was fairly uneventful minus a very shallow cut where we had to wait for a daylight high tide as the charts showed the max depth as 4.5ft which means that we should juuust be able to squeeze through with the tide. While waiting for the moon to approve our passage, we did a little spearfishing and snagged a lobster, two conch, and a large crab. The conchs and lobster made for a tasty meal but we felt bad about the crab and our matey Logan gifted him back to the sea as seen below
After a brief stop in Buena Vista Cay to create a very important treasure map, we sailed hard for Cuba and the morning of Thursday Feb 25th we finally spotted hazy green mountains just on our horizon. We had arrived!
Checking in at Puerto de Vita
Unlike cruising in the Bahamas, many other countries such as Cuba, the DR, and others are more restrictive and require you to check in and check out with the local customs authorities at each port. They typically don’t charge you extra money for each port you visit within their country but it does cost you extra time, paperwork, and allows for less flexibility (aka no “hey what’s that? let’s go there!”). Thus a combination of this extra hassle and the fact that the prevailing winds here were blowing strong out of the East made us decide to leave our trusty steed Bueller at a marina and explore the island (gasp!) by land.
After giving three separate welcome parties of officials a lovely tour of our vessel (complete with snacks and refreshments), we were finally given permission to set foot on Cuban soil and begin our adventure. In order to make sure we made it to the DR in time to pick up our incoming crew, we decided that we had two weeks to explore before we needed to start moseying. While we initially wanted to check out Havana on this visit, a quick glance at a map made us realize how enormous Cuba really is and we decided to pass on this 400+ mile trek each way. Armed with the advice of some sailors, a few locals, and some meager internets, we instead decided to focus our travels on the smaller cities of Holguin, Bayamo, Santiago, and Baracoa on the southeast end of the island over 10 days.
While figuring out our transportation situation we ended up hiring a local taxi driver named Omar who drove us to the neighboring town called Santa Lucia so we could get some of the local currencies (yes they have two) and swing by the Saturday farmers market to get some fresh produce to munch on while we schemed our next step.
Check out the photos of the action below and look for another post soon with more of our antics:
As we pulled into Georgetown, a few sailors made mention to Georgetown as Hotel California, or a tar pit anchorage. Sailors come for a week or two and then just can't bring themselves to leave the beautiful Elizabeth Harbor and the sailing community that makes thier home there. In February and March, the Elizabeth Bay hosts around 350 cruisers (check out the panorama below, or Lars' s paramotoring video to get a sense what that looks like). Most come for the sailing regatta and related activities at the end of February, although many spend almost the entire winter there enjoying the sailing community
When we first arrived in Georgetown, we picked up this guy:
Part cook extraordinaire, part comedian, part yoga enthusiast, part dancer,Mr. Logan Herr (ahhhhhh....crowd goes wild, his intro song of Dance Yourself Clean starts as he enters the stadium). He brought with him a 50lb duffle bag of parts, US food items, and numerous miscellaneous items we needed on the boat; unfortunately, that damn heat exchanger that was supposed to arrive at his house before he left never made it. So our one week stay, turned into two weeks waiting for the heat exchanger, then three weeks waiting for a few storms to pass and a decent weather window to head down to Cuba.
We made good use of our time in Georgetown, both socially as well as knocking off boat projects. The boat project list included: installation of new saloon table legs on our kitchen table to make it easier to convert to an extra bed, removal of the teak stain in the cockpit teak in preparation for re-staining, restitching of our bimini, cleaning/fixing the forward head, replacement of our bent anchor shaft, replacement of a hatch hinge, fixing a broken light switch, and finally replacement of the heat exchanger, followed by a descalar flush and refilling with coolant. There are probably more items I'm forgetting, something new is always breaking on boats :).
Socially, we met a lot of great people in Georgetown: sailors, wayward travelers, and local Bahamians. We ventured out to Georgetown nightlife, singing karaoke, dancing our socks off (I haven't wore socks since I've been on the boat so not sure if this expression still works), and stumbling into a junkanoo, which is essentially a mini Bahamian Carnival, hosted at a local bar. A few of the children took it upon themselves to teach us how to dance after seeing our attempt at joining in the junkanoo. We can't say it helped but they sure had a good laugh trying to teach us. We also joined some fellow sailors in a Triple B: bonfire, beach, and beers. We also participated in some of the cruiser activities including some info sessions on Cuba and batteries. Despite all these activities, we still squeezed in some solid beach time and typical goofing around.
After three weeks in Georgetown, we where itching on getting down to the ragged islands and to Cuba. When a good weather window hit, we finally pulled our anchor out of the tar, and sailed (motored actually as there was now little wind) on out of Georgetown.
The current crew aboard Bueller (aka Travis, Logan, and myself) have been enjoying our time here in Georgetown, Exumas but it's time to make moves to new waters. We've been here for almost three weeks and we've met a number of amazing locals, fellow sailors (shout outs to Gypsy Spirit, Uno, Von Dutch and Island Hopper!) but the sea is calling our names. We'll be pushing off later today for the Ragged Islands with our sights set on Puerta de Vita, Cuba.
Before we pushed off I first wanted to share a video I've been working on that highlights the our sail from Nassau down to Georgetown. Enjoy!
As we set sail on this year long adventure, Travis and I both had a number of skills that we wanted to work on with all of the theoretical down time ahead of us. These ranged from reading more, honing our culinary skills, Travis picking back up the battle axe (read: guitar), staying in shape, and the list goes on. One of the personal challenges I set for myself from the get-go was to document our escapades during the trip through photos and specifically through video. I have no previous editing experience so before pushing off I snagged some tutorials to help me get started. I've been burning through these in the past few weeks and I've just completed my first edit.
The below video is compiled from both my GoPro footage and videos shared from friendly sailors of a few incredible paramotor flights that I took over the last week here in Georgetown. There are over 350 sailboats anchored in town and it's crazy to see them all anchored in the crystal clear Exuma waters. Check it out!