Blue Bliss Voyage Fort Lauderdale to Barbados, 2013, by Klaus Priebe
Living in Barbados we need very seaworthy boats. We had heard that Sabre’s are well built and when we looked at them at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show we discovered they were also very beautiful. We contacted Bentley Collins at the factory and secured the dealership for Barbados and proceeded to order our first boat, the 48. Two visits to the factory and seeing the quality and care that goes into building them convinced us we had made the right decision.
We decided to test the boat with a 1,600 mile run from Fort Lauderdale to Barbados. The boat exceeded our expectations, if she had the range, she could safely cross the Atlantic.
My son, Peter and girlfriend (and former Commodore of Royal Vancouver Yacht Club) Sarah Howard plus their two friends Rob Payne and Scott Meredith took Blue Bliss from Fort Lauderdale to Ocean World Marina in the Dominican Republic where Mary and I then took over.
We started our journey in Pompano Beach, Fl. We were given a tour and a couple of hours ride on the boat and sent on our way for a 1,000 mile journey through the Bahamas to the Dominican Republic.
Our first port of entry was Bimini Island.
We went to a brand new marina called Resort World Bimini. You have to stop at the Game Fishing Marina first to clear in. Make sure you have your boat registration, ownership papers, last port clearance, passports and boat specs, money and a pen on hand for all Caribbean customs clearances. The new marina was very nice, with excellent staff and a great pool with swim up bar. This was our first real test to see how everyone would get along and would set the tone for the trip because we all got along great! Rum punch never hurt either.
Next morning off to Atlantis Resort in Nassau.
Well worth the stop. With your moorage you get access to the whole resort and casino. We must have hit every pool and slide they had and tubed down the ‘lazy river’. That night we went to the casino and searched for somewhere to watch the Canucks play the Leafs. I think a couple of drinks had gone by before we realized that with time zone factors we had already missed it!
Next stop Staniel Cay Yacht Club on the Exuma Bank.
We got held up here for a few days because of weather. Watch the current and underwater reef when entering the marina (local knowledge)…OH and the rap artist and his friends. If you know Pitbull, well…. we partied with him for three days! He had just finished a music video for his new song called “Timber” and stayed for a vacation aboard a chartered boat. If you want to have fun on the island, you can rent a golf cart and drive around it for the afternoon. Nowhere is off limits. If you have a tender, not far away is an island (Big Major Spot) where wild pigs swim and love to eat whatever scraps you have. There is also the Grotto Caves made famous by the James Bond film “Thunderball”. If we had had more time and knowledge we could have spent a week or two just cruising from bay to bay along the Exuma Bank. One thing we missed was David Copperfield’s island a few miles away where he sunk a stainless steel grand piano in about 15ft of water, complete with a stainless steel Mermaid. We would have loved to snorkel and dive around it. Another day!
It was very fitting that our next stop be Cave Cay Marina.
This is a new marina that no one in our travels so far had ever heard of. Fitting because there was not another boat there and a strange silence about the place. Have you ever felt so safe and secure that you actually feel the most insecure at the same time? This was the only place we locked the door at night. Brief description: Large Island divided by a bay with a marina and a floating home, one side had small home structures for staff and many large “hangar” type buildings. The other side with two large unfinished and one finished home for the “owner”. The owner was an older Texan with a disheveled look and fresh wounds. The only staff we met was an older Indian, who we spoke with. After telling us about operations he was involved with in Sudan, the Arabian Desert and Europe, we wondered if this was a secret military training ground. Then he told us that he could speak Swedish, German and Arabic, plus he was a certified captain, pilot and helicopter pilot. Ok special ops guy??? Did I mention this place had an airstrip that looked long enough to land a large jet? So, we naively asked him if he had been in the military, to which he said “something like that”. After more talks with him and further talks with the Texan owner we believe that they are mercenaries and possibly Black Water Ops related. I would say this is worth the stop. Beautiful bay, floating cement docks and they were very friendly. Bring cash for this stop. That is all they take…
Next stop Emerald Bay Marina.
This one is tricky. It is located on the unprotected shores of Great Exuma Island. We happened to arrive when the seas were running 4-6ft. Not bad when they are spread apart, but as we approached we realized that it went from very deep to very shallow at the entrance which in the conditions we were in meant the swells were breaking at the entrance to the marina. We monitored the swell break and when they weren’t breaking as bad I made a run for it. Under full power I surfed a fast breaking wave in to the entrance and then a sharp left hand turn to the protection of a breakwater to avoid it rolling us. As usual the Sabre handled it with aplomb. Double rum cokes followed after a thorough wash down. We learned the next day that a new 85ft Ocean Alexander had been trying to leave the marina for four days but could not because of the breaking entrance waves. But we made it in! Not much to note here except Sandals runs a resort and there is a nice beach to gender watch along and the marina was new.
Onward to Flying Fish Marina on Long island.
Our last stop in the Bahamas and by far the best cocktail hour you could experience. We had the unique opportunity to watch a local fisherman filet four large wahoo’s on the dock. This turned into an unbelievable show as around 8 large sharks of various species feasted on the guts and carcasses. We bought some meat from him and enjoyed fresh fish that night on the Blue Bliss barbecue.
The next day we prepared for our longest haul 210 miles to South Side Marina in the Turks and Caicos. We decided to spend a few days here. If we could have stayed longer we would have. Amazing snorkeling, friendly people and I highly recommend Jimmy’s Dive Bar, Da Conch Shack and Bugaloo’s. Bugaloo’s was especially great, they had standing tables setup in just under waist height water. Order the rum punch and conch fritters and never leave!
Next and final stop before flying to Puerto Rico was Ocean World Marina in the Dominican Republic.
This was not a great location, huge surge, bad docks and the longest most complicated non English speaking customs/immigration process. The highlight was Sarah and I had a private 45 minute playtime in the water with two dolphins and an instructor.
We flew back out of Puerto Rico. Scott lived here for many years and gave us the grand tour of his favourite spots. I highly recommend visiting the fort of old San Juan. Beautiful Spanish convent. A great way to finish our unbelievable and memorable trip on an incredibly comfortable and excellent seakeeping boat. I have a video presentation of our trip that can be sent with a link on request.
I have been boating since I was a baby and have run dozens of boats. I have to say that the Sabre 48 is the best sea boat I have run with the most comfortable interior.
Mary , our friend Mike Neuhoff and I flew into Puerto Plata, DR. You get off the plane, walk down the corridor to customs and a precursor of what is to come awaits you. A band playing local music with a box for donations.
Next a booth where you have to pay $10.00 before proceeding to customs. So you’re hit up for money twice before even getting to customs. Then everyone’s bag goes through an X-ray machine and finally you get outside where a cacophony of shouts from taxi drivers greets you.
We had pre ordered a car through Ocean World Marina, which describes itself as “the ultimate Caribbean destination and worldwide yacht charter centre”, so we expected an appropriate car. We got a 20 year old, beat up Toyota Corolla with a scruffy driver, who spoke no English and wanted $50 for the ride to the Marina.
Arriving at the Marina, another customs checkpoint and this time the Navy also re inspect your passports and open all your bags and rifle through them. What a way to welcome yacht owners.
You go out to your boat which you notice is surging like crazy. Getting on and off requires balance, timing and luck. When on the boat you have to constantly hang onto something to keep from falling. The noise of the lines grinding in the cleats is horrendous and the constant motion tiring. Never, ever would we go there again.
We waited for a weather window before carrying on. That night we went to the local bar, run by a fellow from Winnipeg. We asked for a car and driver. He recommended Rambo, a driver who spoke English and had a decent car. Rambo was a nice guy, but his car was an old van, but it at least had air conditioning.
Mike Neuhoff suggested that we go to the wind and kite surfing capital of the DR, Caberete. On the way there we drove through Sosua which has dozens of legal brothels, but Mary, for some reason, did not want to stop. Caberete is a very nice tourist town on a miles long beach with miles of waves and wind for the wind surfers. Germans everywhere, even the owner of the kite surf shop where Mike bought a new sail for Barbados. We then had lunch on the beach, sitting in upholstered couches under awnings and palm trees, very pleasant. We were offered everything from the beach vendors. Newspapers from Germany to New York, coral necklace jewelry, dreadlock hairstyles, women, special candy confectionaries and the restaurant even had food. Prices were all reasonable. There were four of us, we all had drinks and food, actually good food and paid $55. Barely gets you a drink at Lone Star and no beach entertainment like we had.
Then on to Puerto Plata to the main grocery store which had about 70% of a Florida Publix. Next a marine store to buy more lines as ours were getting ground down by the swell in Ocean World. Needless to say being so close to Ocean World, the lines were their best seller.
Finally a weather window appeared meaning the waves were down from 7’ to 4-6’. So now I had to check out, wanting to leave about 3 am in the morning. But I was told that in the DR no foreign flagged boat may leave a harbour before 6 am and after 6 pm. Okay, I said, then check me out now. No, we can’t do that, they said, until the day you leave and we don’t start work until 8:30 am. Okay how do we get around that? The marina manager said I will take you around to immigration and talk to them. We went to immigration and there ensued a long Spanish discussion, back and forth (as if they had never had this dance before) until finally the officer said for $80.00 he would stamp our passports for departure the next day.
Next customs, he also agreed, but for $20. Next drug enforcement, he also agreed for $20. Next the navy who said they were there 24/7 and would come by at 6 am. I gave the marina manager $20.00 for helping me.
At 6 am a navy guy and another guy who did not identify himself showed up. They each had a clipboard with a piece of paper, which they exchanged with me for… .Yes, you got it, $20.00 each. The paper is all in Spanish and I still don’t know who the guy with the navy guy was, but what are you going to do at 6 am in the morning, desperate to leave. Had to deal with 6 different people and spend $180 to escape Ocean World. The only highlight of the stay there was that I was referred to as “Capitan de la Lancha” you can’t beat that cool title.
But Ocean World Marina, never again!
Out we went for the 320 mile run to Puerto Rico, but the forecast failed us. Seas started at 2-4, quickly went to 6-8 with some 8-10’s. So instead of 30 mph, we went at 10 mph and got beat up. By 6 pm with no lunch, we were done getting tossed around. In the dark we fumbled our way into a huge bay filled with islands, reefs and uncharted marks heading for a marina that was so new, it wasn’t on the chart. And it was pitch black, no moon.
Mary looked out, Mike steered by the Garmin chart and had the helm. I had the Ipad Navionics charts and helped Mary and Mike. For two hours the three of us talked, yelled, argued, encouraged, apologized………….as we tried to find an uncharted marina, 20 miles down a narrow, dark, black channel. Then an angel named Manuel came on the VHF. He lived in the marina he said, was on his way back in and he saw us groping in the dark on his AIS. He asked us to slow down and said “I will pass you, then just follow me in”.(Pretty trusting of us, just shows how tired we were.) We did, and made it in at 8:30 pm ready for a large drink. But of course customs and drug enforcement came, boarded us and the dance began again. Finally I said look, I’m tired, cranky, hungry, dirty, can’t we do this tomorrow, he agreed, the sweaty smell probably got to him.
We all showered and went ashore to discover we had landed in a first class marina. Brand new, lovely bars, restaurants, shops, spa, gym, pools…………And no surge, a peaceful quiet night.
Blue Bliss in the DR
Then we were on weather watch again. We have to cross the Mona Passage to go to Puerto Rico where 12’ seas are routinely reported. Google Mona Passage crossings and read some of the blogs about the amazing seas. In the meantime our friend Mike and I went for vegetables in Samana.
Mike took a day off to tour Santo Domingo, Mary and I had the boat to ourselves. Swimming, eating on our gorgeous aft deck, cocktailing and massages in the spa. So we were stuck in Puerto Bahia Marina, but hell of a nice way to be stuck.
The weather kept us in Puerto Bahia longer than we wanted. Mary and I flew up to Pompano for a few days while Mike stayed on the boat. He went hiking in the beautiful hills around us, amazing some locals when he appeared barefoot and shirtless in the wilderness. They warned him about poisonous snakes but all he got was insect bites leaving big red welts.
Lady M, the largest (213’) and newest Palmer Johnson (http://www.superyachttimes.com/editorial/1/article/id/10918 ) came into the marina and Mike partied with the crew. Another day he went with some locals to a cock fight in the local town of Samana. Mary and I went there one day in a cab for $20. Mike went on the back of a motorcycle for $2.
We had another day off when Mary and I came back to the boat, so we had a car take us over to Las Terrenas. A beach that was miles long, many high end stores including delis selling fine pates and cheeses, beautiful beachside restaurants and friendly people. The girls must be very friendly as we saw many elderly gentlemen with beautiful, young DR girls on the beach and in the restaurants. These men were really getting into the local culture.
While in the DR we drove hundreds of miles in the north and south, over mountains and along the seaside. The roads were first class. No potholes, no cracks, no fissures, no shoulders breaking apart, no washboard sections and when there was a repaired section there was a smooth transition on and off. Perhaps Sir Charles and the Barbados Minister of Transport can explain why our roads are a nightmare and the DR’s are a dream.
Finally a weather window opened up, reducing seas in the Mona Passage to 3-4’. Now I had to clear out. Having experienced the corrupt Ocean World officials, Puerto Bahia was a delightful contrast. A lovely polite immigration lady, a customs gentleman who even put covers over his black shoes and a plain clothes gentleman described as “Intelligentzia” came on board, a couple of forms were dealt with, a payment of $36 and we were free to leave.
Lovely passage to Puerto Rico., Mary enjoying the “ships office.”
These were the conditions we had been waiting for!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We did about 150 miles that day ending up at the Ponce Yacht Club in Puerto Rico. The fuel dock guy was the most surly, unfriendly one encountered to date. US customs, immigration and agriculture all came on board and did their inspection. They asked for a fee of $26.50 for a 6 months cruising permit and told us that we were not permitted to leave our “international garbage” there. Each country seems to have someone whose job it is to develop the longest paperwork, with the most people for clearing in and then add a few random rules like don’t leave your international garbage behind. And don’t forget you have to clear out too and have that clearing out documentation ready for the next port.
After eating and cleaning up we went to bed and got an early 5 am start for the crossing to the BVI. Same 3-4’seas to Roadtown. Tortola was covered in low cloud, wind and rain. Tied up in the Village Cay Marina between showers and went to clear in. This was one of those classic ones, I think they just like messing with you. I go to customs, no, no I am told, you have to go to immigration first. Go to immigration, no, no you have to go to customs first. And all you can do is smile and pretend you are not going to go berserk in about 2 seconds. Managed all their forms, paid $16.50 (where do they come up with all these random amounts) and went back to the boat to my waiting wife who needed a grocery store to restock the boat. In each port no one on the boat is allowed off or on until I come back with the clearance for us and the boat and that never takes less than an hour.
Our son Rob had flown in to join us and was on the dock to take our lines on arrival. I’m sure he expected something more than going to the grocery store right away but stocking the boat is part of boating and we needed beer so… he was in for the ride.
After grocery shopping, Rob and Mike did a shore investigation and Mary and I readied the boat for the next day as my weather website said go now or be stuck again!.
We left the next morning in solid low cloud and rain. First a fuel stop. Notice the umbrella to keep rain out of the fuel.
On leaving we found seas running even in the protected waters of the BVI. Went out through a channel by Ginger Island and had to slow to about 5 mph to crash through very short, steep 8-10’ seas. After about 15 minutes they went down to 4-6’ seas in open waters and we managed to get the speed up to 10 mph. We had to get to St Martin by 5 pm to catch the bridge opening into the harbor that had all the marinas. But our ETA at 9 in the morning was 6:45, so it was going to be a long day. The boat managed the seas well but it was difficult to move around safely and lunch was out of the question. Going to the bathroom was a major adventure. You lie on the bed, take your underwear and pants off, move carefully to the toilet. As you go to sit down, the seas lift the boat and the toilet comes up to meet you very quickly. If your aim in getting your rear onto the rapidly rising seat is off, you can seriously mash up your hanging parts.
Near the end of the day we got into the lee of St Martin and managed to speed up to 25, then 30 and made it to the 5 pm bridge opening.
We had called ahead to Simpson Bay Marina, an IGY facility, very classy. A marina tender came outside the bridge to guide us in. It’s a huge bay but with lots of shallows so following the tender was greatly appreciated. Great, friendly uniformed staff and security, large wide docks, bar, restaurant and many stores even a dentist, really first class and then I got the bill, it was first class too!
We spent a day in St Martin. I took Mike and Rob on our tender over to the French side for a drink and we ran into a German from Hamburg who was running a French restaurant with German beer. He wants Mike to distribute the beer in Barbados.
Mary, Rob and I went into Phillipsburg on the Dutch side to do some shopping while Mike stayed on the French side. Rob and I sampled the free rum while Mary shopped until her card was rejected. I had warned MasterCard to expect a series of fuel and marina charges in different countries every few days; I had not said anything about clothes shopping, so we sorted that out with another card.
Back at the boat I checked the weather. I have subscribed for a premium ocean weather service that takes me 7 days out. Very disappointed to see 7-12’ seas with up to 35 mph winds for the next 7 days. So I called Liat and got the four of us back to Barbados where we monitored the weather every day. From St Martin all we need is just two days of smaller seas and off we go to bring the boat to Barbados.
One final note, with all the Liat horror stories we were very worried. But we flew on the brand new ATR 72. Nice seats, lot’s of space, two lovely stewardess’s served coffee, tea, hot chocolate and donuts and we arrived in Barbados almost on time, just a few minutes late.
We left the boat in St Martin and waited for a weather break. This year’s winds and seas have been record breaking. Day after day of 25 mph winds and 8-12’ seas. We finally got a break with winds down to 20 mph and seas at 6’. I had a court date to attend so Mary flew up with the first mate from Ron Joyce’s 165’ Destination, his girlfriend and our son in law Nelson.
Mary and her crew left the dock at St Martin for a 4 pm bridge opening and were there first but told to let the 200’ Sherakhan through first as she could not hold in place as well as we could. Doesn’t Sherakhan have a Skyhook like a Sabre? She got through and then they closed the bridge for emergency vehicles, and then reopened costing us a valuable 30 minutes of daylight.
Crossed to St Eustatius at 18 mph in 6-8’ beam seas. Then overnight along the coast of St Kitts at 10 mph. Morning found us in 8-10’ seas in the passage between St Kitts and Guadeloupe, where we stopped for fuel. Carried on meeting huge seas again in the passages between the islands, made it to Fort de France Martinique for fuel which cost us three hours as the fuel docks credit card machine would not work and we went on a long shore tour trying to find a suitable ATM to get cash.
Finally left at 8:30 pm to try the crossing to Barbados but once clear of Martinique ran into 10-12’ walls of water directly against us in the dark and decided to turn back and anchor in Marin for the night. The next day we crossed over to Rodney Bay, St Lucia and left the boat there.
By this time it was Christmas and Peter and Sarah were down to visit us and said they really wanted to finish what they had started in Pompano Beach. So again we waited days for a weather window and saw one where seas were a predicted high of 6’ and winds down to 15 mph. So Peter and Sarah flew over to St. Lucia to get the boat. They left Rodney Bay for the normal 100 mile 4 hour run at 7 am and arrived in Barbados at 3 pm having encountered head seas all the way at 8-10’. So much for the 6’ forecast from “Buoy Weather” a service I paid and subscribed for.
The boat is now happily in Barbados cruising up and down our coast in 0-1’ swells. Having come down 1,600 miles from Miami in mainly large seas all the way it is a pleasure to report no leaks, no damage, no shifting of anything in the interior. This boat is built like a tank, yet handles like a sports car.
Marinas (per foot):
Bimini Bay Marina $3.08
Atlantis Marina $4.83
Cave Cay Bahamas $3.75
Dominica Republic Samana $1.18 and Ocean World $1.80
Simpson Bay Marina, St Martin, $2.75
Rodney Bay Marina, St Lucia, $4.08ft
Fuel (per gallon):
Lighthouse Point Marina Sunoco $4.15
Jupiter Boatyard, Delta Petroleum $4.79
Ocean Reef Club $4.94
Flying Fish Marina $5.91
Staniel Cay $ 5.71
Turks & Caicos, South Side Marina $6.25
Samana, Dominican Republic $5.08
Yacht and Fishing Club, Puerto Rico $3.93
Port St Charles $5.25