Posted by: catamarantwooceans | July 13, 2008

March 2007- Bahamas to the dominican Republic

March 1st – 0600, high water but not enough light. Today we are sailing to Spanish Wells near Eleuthera and it is a 65 NM leg so time is a factor – we have to arrive when there’s good light. The wind dictates our actions. Can’t make it to Spanish Wells against the wind so we divert to Royal Island for better angle. This works for a while but around noon the wind heads us and we take the sails down resigning to motoring.
Royal Harbour is a big and comfortable bay and finally we see a few sailing yachts. The island is undergoing a big change. Some company is planning a 200 boats marina, few hundreds apartments and an 18 holes golf course.

March 2nd – We start the day by motoring the 8 miles to Current cut, the narrow channel separating Current from Eleuthera. The book says we need to pass it at slack water, but the tide tables we have are very limited. We go in anyway. We can see the flow coming at us. Take a look at the picture, the difference between the boat speed and the SOG tells the story.

Strong Current

Strong Current

Having passed the channel and the obstacles after it we reach a bank, 4 meter deep. Now the wind is favourable at 12 knots and we sail closehauled toward Hatchet Bay trolling a lure. A few hundred meters ahead I spot a wide reef over which we will sail in just a few minutes. I do one of my old tricks: “Oved, get ready! You’ll have a fish in ten minutes”. Oved has his nose in his laptop and laughs me off. “Oved, 5 minutes!” In an instant the reel shrieks, a fish! Oved can’t believe it and tries to pull the fish. We can see it breaking the surface but suddenly it disappears. You got to believe to be lucky…
We go into Hatchet bay and approach the pier to see if we can get water but no taps are to be found, so we go back into the bay and tie to a mooring in the company of two other yachts. Oved is returning tomorrow to his “Real World” back to simulator training and commercial flight. We celebrate by having a Spaghetti Marinara with the Barracuda we caught days ago, washed down with Washington State made red wine (they make wine everywhere now).

March 3rd – Oved left and Eddi, his replacement, is only coming on the 6th, so I go out singlehanded and pleasantly sail to governor Harbour 15 miles away. “Two Oceans” is configured for singlehanding. Good autopilot, all controls go into  the cockpit, including ropes that pull the main down for first and second reef.I go into the harbour and anchor. I dive to check but I don’t like the bottom, the anchor is not penetrating so I raise it and go for a mooring. I can tell you that doing it by myself was satisfying. As I have a few jobs I want to do on the boat, the main item being studying and operating the watermaker, I decide to stay another day.

March 4th is a Sunday, and Sunday in a Bahamian town is something to behold and listen. Most of the activity centers around church, prayers accompanied with songs and rhythmic music and in the afternoon a wind orchestra made for an interesting day. The watermaker refused to work… I am down to my last 20 litres plus 4 gallons of mineral water I bought in town. Funnily enough I am getting some Wi Fi and can call home using Skype.

March 5th – I decide to wait for Eddi further south in Rock Point. Today the wind is Northeasterly 20 knots so I go out with one reef in the main and a full jib. The sea is flat only some small waves over which we rush at good speed. In one of the gusts the boat accelerates to 12.6 knots. Approaching Rock Sound I reef the jib and put the second reef in the main. All this is done quite easily and gives me more confidence in “Two Oceans”. I anchor and, in what becomes a standard operation put the spare CQR down for a quiet and peaceful night.

Rock Sound

Rock Sound

March 6th – In the morning I call the documentation company that does my Delaware registration to get an update. ” It is so good that you called because we have a big problem, do you happen to have the original South African registration on board? We cannot proceed without it”. Where have they been all this time? They have all my contact information and they need luck to get in touch with me? I go to the post office and send it by registered mail. “It’ll take a week to ten days” I’m told. The name of the documentation company is ASAP. What does the “S” stand for I wonder. At 1530 Eddi arrives. We still have time to motorsail the 10 miles to Cape Eleuthera marina. We need to go there for water and also shortening tomorrow’s trip can be nice. This is a typical Bahamas trip, looking ahead for reefs and monitoring the depth nervously, dodging 1.2 meters shallows and breathing easy when it is 1.6…

March 7th – In the morning we fill the water tanks and go out. Our target is due west and the wind exactly from the east. So we change plans, aiming for our next day destination: Cambridge Cay – 35 miles away with good angle to the wind which is now 20-22 knot true. I decide to raise the main to the second reef position and the jib to the first and so we run along, the autopilot holding the course. We get there in 4.5 hours. Not bad at all. The entrance into the anchorage is very impressive. First the passage between the deep water of the open sea and the shallows inside makes quite big waves, and when you are in, the various colors of the water are fantastic. We tie to a mooring and relax. Our neighboring yacht is “Adagio” from Canada. Rick, Eliena and their dog Ginger plan to stay in the same spot for a month, volunteering as Park Rangers of sorts. They give us hints for the area, including fishing and snorkeling tips. As we stand on the fore deck I see a brown body gliding underwater near the boat – a shark! “It’s a Nurse” says Rick nonchalantly. Later in the evening two more come for a visit. Tomorrow we’ll go snorkeling!

March 8th – We take the dinghy and go to snorkel. A rather small but nice site with lots of fish, not unlike I’ve seen in years of diving in the Sinai peninsula. Then we’re off to Black Point, where, according to Rick and Eliena, you can get a lobster dinner at “Lorraine’s Cafe” for 15 $ each. Tempting! They also said that the fishing on the ocean side is excellent and mention the magic word “Mahi Mahi” so we go out motoring, as the wind is light. The fishing equipment is put into action and in half an hour we have a strike! A Barracuda is brought on board and the lure goes back into the water.  30 minutes more pass and we have another fish! It is obviously a different species, because it rushes forward until almost abeam the boat, jumps out and thus reveals it’s identity: a Mahi! It’s a beautiful fish 108 cm long. 

Mahi mahi

Mahi mahi

While I’m taking care of the fish in the galley, a big motor yacht crosses our  bows a speed making huge waves. A few minutes after her passing we hit the first wave, climbing over it and diving into the second. The bow scoops a tremendous amount of water that finds it’s way through the hatch to the cabin table, to splash my camera, cellular phone and a map. Saved the phone but the camera is dead!
At the time I write this I still don’t know whether the pictures on the memory card survived.

Bad guys

Bad guys

After we clean up the mess, fish and sea water in the cabin, we reach Dotham pass and go into the east side of the Cays. The passage is beautiful, the colours of the water merit a better scribe than I could ever be. We anchor in Black Point with at least eight other yachts, take the dinghy ashore to look for “Lorrain’s”. “Will there be lobsters tonight?” She doesn’t know yet. We end up by giving her the Barracuda as a present and letting her cook our Mahi steaks for us.

March 9th – Today we need to sail 40 miles to Emerald Bay marina. Presumably they have this “Sailboat deal” whereby you get all the services of the resort and marina for a reasonable price. When we go out the wind is 18 knots true, I raise the main to the first reef with full jib. The boat goes well, over 7.5 knots SOG all the time. With about two hours to go we spot another boat abeam, closer to shore. The silhouette and the vertical rig suggest a catamaran. As our tracks diverge we can see that it is a cat, also single reef in the main. A race! We go neck and neck for a very long time and then i decide to get wise and shake the reef out. I can identify the boat as a Leopard by the louvres over the fore windows, but cannot tell her size. Little by little they gain on us making me feel frustrated, until we see the sail marking, it is a 47 footer. So we didn’t do that bad after all.
The entrance to Emerald Bay marina is downright frightening with the onshore wind, being very narrow, waves following you almost all the way in. We get a place between two other cats: a Belize and a Shuttleworth 37 from Canada. A visit to the office makes us understand that the deal (0.75$ per foot) is without electricity or water. The full service is 2.25$ a foot. But this is good, we can do laundry, surf the web and the supermarket is excellent. The menu tonight: Steaks (fillet minion) in mustard sause, endive, potatos, veggies and salad.

meal

meal

March 10th – Morning starts at 0600 with me having going to do laundry. Entering the laundry facility I see that I am not the first to have this bright idea. Later we find the cause of the slight fuel leak that the port engine developed and then we go out. Aiming for the northern cape of Long Island we reach at 7.5 to 8 knots SOG at 15 knots of wind. This boat can sail! Looking back towards Exuma I see a strange phenomenon: the cloud base in tinted pale green, probably reflection from the shallow water to the west of the island. We reach Calabash bay and anchor on sand at 2 meters depth, take the dinghy to explore the lagoon opening to the north and the beach near the resort. In the evening the wind backs to Northwest at 20 knots. Surge is moving us around. Not a pleasant night! At about 3 o’clock the wind veers and we can sleep better.

March 11th – Out to Rum Cay. Fast reach to one of the most beautiful locations so far. Passing the western tip of the island, seeing the depth come up from unlimited dark blue and in seconds show 12 meters with the most incredible turquoise imaginable is a sight to behold. There must be fantastic diving over there. Quite a few yachts are at anchor in the bay, but for us, today, the Sumner Point marina beckons. We need a good night sleep, water and electricity to replenish the batteries. The entrance to the marina is very shallow and well marked. In my impatience to get there I cut a corner between two markers, have to “brake” when the gauge shows 1.0 meter, reverse, and enter properly. In the evening we walk to town, Port Nelson, enjoy the long sandy beach and have the coldest “Kalik” in a local bar. 

March 12th –  Leaving Rum Cay for Little Harbour in Long Island, the wind is north easterly at 20 knots and we are sailing due south. So it’s first reef. The waves are becoming high, about 2.5 meters and the autopilot is having a hard time holding the course. I take the wheel for a few minutes and see 12.8 knot down a big wave. This is too much! We reef some more. The going into Little Harbour is between some rocks and a small island in rough sea but inside it is peaceful and we spend a restful night in the company of two other yachts.

March 13th – Leaving Little Harbour for Crooked Island. The wind is strong and there are waves in the passage out. Pictures “flatten” the sea but this will give you the general idea.

Little Harbour exit

Little Harbour exit

Outside the seas are rough and although the wind is not more than 20 knots I put in the second reef and feel that it is not enough. The boat is going too fast for the conditions. We have a third reef point but there are no ropes connected to it. That will be the first thing to do in Crooked Island. We are aiming towards the northwestern part of the island, to a place called Portland Harbour. Of course this is only a space inside the reef, southeast of Bird Rock lighthouse, with adequate depth and supposedly protected from waves. Further to the south we can see three yachts. Their location seems to be much better so we point our bows in their direction. At that moment we start having engines problems, starboard engine loses RPM – we close and open the throttle and it comes back. The port engine fails suddenly and we succeed in coaxing it back to life by playing the throttle while turning the starter. We reach the anchorage, put our “anchoring system” in place and sit to consider the engines problem. We are formulating the theory that since the fuel tanks are in the forward lockers and far away from the motors – excessive motion in the pitch axis makes for fuel starvation or air bubbles in the fuel line. The proof: the moment we came into smooth water the engines worked fine! So how do we solve this? Have to consult an expert!
After a swim and a well deserved rest we dinghy ashore. Along the beach we can see vacation homes,probably owned by foreigners, each with an exotic name, “Blue Luna”, “Island Time” and the like. There is an airstrip with a few light airplanes parking and a small hotel.We march for almost 40 minutes but see no local village. So it’s back to the boat and to thinking about the days ahead bearing in mind the forecast which is NE-E 20-25 knots with 5-7 foot waves.

anchorage

Crooked Island

March 14th –  Looking out from the anchorage the sea doesn’t seem so bad. The wind is on par with the forecast and we motorsail with main at third reef, doing 5-6 knots on the water and 1 knot less on the ground. If the speed will increase a bit when passing Acklins island and changing course for a better wind angle we’ll be able to reach our destination, Plana Cays, well before sunset. Our optimism wanes when the starboard motor starts it’s RPM reduction tricks and shortly after the port engine quits. We turn back, open the jib a bit and sail back to where we came from. Anchor holding, we sit down to take stock and consider our options. Eddie needs to get to Mayaguana to catch a flight that will eventually bring him to Hongkong and a new job. He absolutely cannot be late! Danny Kav, who is joining me when Eddi leaves, will need to be picked up there too! So it’s down to the beach and the hotel to inquire about flights that will get Eddie on his planned way and bring Danny to the boat. We go to the hotel and speak to Carter Andrews who does everything to help, including letting us download the weather on his computer and trying to call some light aircraft charter companies.

Carter to the rescue

Carter to the rescue

Back at the boat we try calling a few operators but no contact is made. Meanwhile a dinghy approaches. It is “Skip” of “Gone Away” the ketch on our right. He came to tell us that he had the very same experience the day before. When he hears about our flight plans he says:”I have a friend here with a Cessna 210 (or was it 201?) a former U.S air force pilot who has a house on the beach. ” He may be able to fly you. I’ll bring him over at 1830 so you can talk about it”. Spirits rise and dip again when the pilot comes and explains that he is unable to take passengers due to insurance restrictions.

Eddi on the beach

Eddi on the beach

March 15th – When we wake up we see that all our neighbours are on their way. The Canadian single hander is going to Georgetown in the Exumas. “Gone Away” and “Izafu” go to Rum Cay. All of them with the wind. I call “gone Away” on the VHF and ask that they give us the sea state when they leave the shelter of the reef. After a few minutes they report that the wind is about 15 KTS and the waves not more than 6 feet. I figure out that if we go now we can get to Plana Cay in the evening have dinner and a short nap and then plan a departure to Mayaguana so as to arrive an hour after sunrise. And what about the stuttering engines? We think we know how to keep them running (wishful thinking, in retrospect). In any case, if we see that we cannot reach Mayaguana on time, we could always go back to the “Flight Option”. 
That day we sailed, motored and motorsailed, dodged dangerous reefs near the northwest and prayed to Aeolos and Yanmar.  Finally at 1830 we dropped anchor near the shore of West Plana. Two hours of sleep where terminated cruelly and as the wind was straight on the nose we started motoring towards Mayaguana.

March 16th – The engines make troubles again. This time I decide, so late in the game, to bleed them of air. For some time this works but come 0600 we are sailing, unable to start any of them. It becomes clear that there is no way I can sail the boat into Abrahams bay which is fringed by coral and is very shallow. I read my guide again and see the possible anchorage at Betsy Bay on the west shore of the island. With full sails now, since the wind has decreased, I turn “Two Oceans”  north, she glides along the coast until we reach the village and drop anchor. Miraculously the starboard engine starts but we could have done without it. 

Mayaguana

Mayaguana

Do not for a moment think that I am happy gallantly  sailing along with no engines! On the contrary, what was on my mind all the time is how to fix the problem ASAP. But first we take Eddi ashore and arrange transportation to the airport. No bus service or taxi in Betsy Bay, but the local people are helping. Eddi is taken to the airport by Reverend Mizik, who looks more like a Rap singer than a man of the cloth. He also bring Danny from the airport. Now back to the engines problem. One of the thoughts we had was that the fuel gauges are not correct. While I sailed the boat in Fort Lauderdale they showed much less and the engines ran fine. But we did something like 70 engine hours and the tank capacity is 250 litres (65 Gallons). We decide to fill some more fuel and see what effect it’ll have. The Reverend takes us to the fuel station, which is located at the Mail-boat dock, we take about 70 litre and put them in the tanks. I bleed the system on both engines, start them both and it seems that they run just fine. I am, however, not sure about the way fuel came out of the Racor filter, or rather how it didn’t. I had to shake the pipe for the fuel to flow out. Is this normal?
Tomorrow we’ll take the boat to the fuel dock, fill the tanks to the brim and this will give us an indication about the gauges.

March 17th – Filling time – the port tank takes 41 gallons, the starboard – 35. This means that the gauges are OK, but does it also indicate that the a third of the tanks in unusable? We start them up, motor to Devil’s Point and then sail leisurely to the Abrahams Bay entrance. From there it’s motoring again and the engines work flawlessly. I’m starting to relax.

March 18th – 0710 -We go out slowly because the sun is not high enough to see the bottom. When clear of the reef we raise the main, unfurl the jib and sail directly to Sandbore Channel in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos islands. Beautiful sailing! Wind not more than 15 knots and we do the 46 miles in seven hours.
Now we need to motor through the channel to Caicos marina and shipyard. Danny, who has a monohull with 2.1 meters draft is a bit stressed by the passage at such depth, and from time to time I join him because the bottom is rising up now and again and we see 2 – 2.5 meters. Right then the unthinkable happens – the port engines stops. So the problem was not solved after all!
I leave Danny at the helm and dive into the engine room to bleed air. I had to do this three times until finally we spot the entrance to the marina. Customs and Immigrations man come to the boat, he is a very nice guy, does everything efficiently and also allays my concerns by telling us that the mechanic in this marina, Mike, is an excellent one. We will want him to take a look at the engines and also at the port fuel tank, where we spot a leak into the bilge. Is this all connected? Mike will tell.

March 19th – Morning comes but not Mike. We find his office and try to speak to him about our problem. Mike is talking to me while at the same time working on his computer. He informs me that he has 20 boats ahead of ours, but agrees to come and take a look at 1430. I prepare the boat for his visit, emptying the port locker, where the tank is and sponge the fuel out. Mike arrives, one can see that the man is a professional. He spots a small filter on the outlet of the tank. It is almost completely blocked. ” That’s the source of your problem” he says and proceeds to take it off on both engines and replace it with new pipes and a brass fittings. NOW the problem is solved and I can relax. The leak will be taken care of somewhere else unless Mike, who is now all smiles, agrees to do it tomorrow.

Mike and Jamal

Mike and Jamal

March 23rd – Notice the time lapse? Here’s what happened in the last days: Mike has agreed to fix the tank. He brought Jamal who proceeded to take the tank out of the locker in an operation not unlike that of a complicated child birth.
My morale went up and down when for a few minutes it looked as if he will not be able to extract it. But then the tank came out and Danny yelled:”It’s a boy!”. The tank went to the shop to wait it’s turn on the busy job list of Giles, the welder.

mike in the shop

mike in the shop

Dani and Jamal

Dani and Jamal

The crack was found, welded – and now it has to wait it’s turn on the busy… ETC, ETC. We are promised that the job will be finished today, but probably too late to go out. On our way to the Dominican Republic we need to traverse 40 miles of the Caicos bank with 2 meters depth. This can only be done in daylight. In the mean time the weather has turned dirty, clouds and rain – depressing! Mike calls me to his shop to show me the problem with the tank. It seems that not only did the tank crack, the baffle inside it (this is the part that limits the fuel movement) broke away from the tank on the inside and this will also need to be rectified. He promises to finish the welding that day but the installation “will not be very early in the morning”. Friday comes, we sit and wait. At 1030 Jamal shows up with the tank. Hopes for a departure before 1200 rise, we can gain a day! “Are you sure the tank is OK now?” “Oh yes, Giles pressured it and there is no leak”. I call the immigration people and then assist Jamal in his work. At that time the marina manager approaches us and asks that we move the boat back a few boat length to make room for a big diving boat. The work is almost finished, the tank is filled and not leaking so I bleed the engine, start it and move to the new position. As we are securing the boat, the immigration guys come. I am on the bow and as I start walking back into the cockpit, I glance in the locker where the fuel tank is and with a sinking feeling spy the reddish colour of diesel fuel. It leaks! I apologise to the officials and cancel the departure. Jamal calls Giles who thinks it is only a matter of resetting and caulking the tank fitting. I am very unsure of it but let them do their work. Suddenly Jamal discovers the cause. In his haste to finish everything so we can move the boat, he mistook the Filler cap vent for the fuel return line and left the latter disconnected to the tank. As I started up – it discharged fuel. We all breath with relief, tomorrow we’ll be able to leave.

March 24th – We are leaving, not before bleeding the port engine again. We leave Caicos marina behind and navigate through ginger channel with the new acquired chart of the area. The initial plan was to motor the shallow part, but the wind is good and not too strong so we raise the main to the second reef so we will not sail too fast, unfurl the jib and start an irregular, sometime stressing, sail in depth between 2.2 and1.6 (!) meters with an occasional coral head to dodge. When we get closer to Long Cay near South Caicos, it is more than 4 meters deep. We relax and roll out the fishing reel. Our Mahi Mahi stock is now depleted and we need a fish. We get a strike, but as I fight it towards the boat the load disappears.
This is what came back to the boat:

fish-head

fish-head

I try again, leaving the “deadhead” on the hook. It doesn’t take long and a fish hits it. This time I can see the predator jumping clear of the water, but again it escapes and I am reeling in a fish head. Surprisingly it is a different fish! We enter deep water and set course to Luperon, Dominican Republic. Night comes, the boat sails beautifully at over 7 knots with the apparent wind at 60 degrees. A ship passes very close, seen very late on the radar. At 2245 the wind veers and we need to furl the jib and motorsail. When my shift comes it starts to rain, not nice… When Danny comes on deck there is no rain at all. I take the helm again at 0330 and see that the wind is backing to NE. I give it 10 minutes and when I think that it is permanent I hoist the main (first reef) unfurl the jib and – you can guess – the wind heads us again! Sails down, back to motoring. After an hour or so it backs again. I fight my natural laziness and do the sail stunt one more time. Now it holds but only until the rain showers come with vengeance. I first see the clouds on the radar, which I turn on from time to time, they look exactly like terrain. I recheck our position, we are clearly far from land.With this kind of radar return I decide to reef some more and just in time because with the rain came 25 knots of wind straight on the nose. Furl the jib, main down and back to motoring. It is 0520 and I pray for daylight. Seven miles to destination it comes, wind is abating and we ( Danny joins at this point) start observing the shore in search of the entrance. It’s not as wide as I imagined. Waves break on reefs right and left and the water changes colour to muddy brown. Once inside, we turn right into the bay and suddenly see the multitude of yachts, some on moorings, others at anchor.

We call the Puerto Blanco marina on 16 and somebody answers. “Do you want a pilot?” “Negative” is our reply. We spot a small boat with two guys gesturing for us to follow. We do, they direct us to a spot in the bay and tell us to anchor. It now becomes clear we are encountering our first “Boat Boys”. I redirect myself to a better anchoring position and drop the anchor.

Handy Andy & Bapu

Handy Andy & Bapu

Our pilots introduce themselves as “Handy Andy” (huge biceps) and Bapu. They offer there services in an unaggressive, pleasant way and leave after we thank them. As tired as we are, we lower the dinghy and go to the government dock to check in. Immigration first and then the naval Commandante and the man from the agriculture department. They want to come aboard and check our boat in person. On our way to the dinghy a young couple passes. Ali and Pat of “bumfuzzle”! (www.bumfuzzle.com – great site) I was in touch with them and tried to meet them when they visited Israel but it didn’t work out. So we exchange a few words with the hope of maybe meeting later and proceed with our officials to the boat. A beer, a coke and some friendly conversation and we take them back.

Bum on the right

Bum on the right

My friend Itzik is joining us after driving around Luperon for ages, trying to find the marina. I try to get some information about the anchorages on the way east. Mac, who is one of the locals, asks if I have Bruce Van Sant’s book “The gentleman’s guide to pasages south”. “No, I don’t”. “Well it so happens that the man lives in Luperon and his wife is right there in the restaurant” She, Rosa Van Sant, happens to have a copy in her car. So now I have all the information I need but some of it not very comforting!Quote:”Sailing or motoring to windward on this coast during so called moderate trades (20-25 knots, 6-8 foot seas) rates as flat out suicidal” end quote… Nice! The book goes on to mention picking weather windows. Very complicated.

Luperon Bar

Luperon Bar

We conclude the day in the marina’s restaurant and bar to the excessively amplified sound of a local band, then go back to the boat in the dark, rainy night.

March 26th – Danny is leaving today. We take him to Santiago, where he will catch a flight to New York and then home. He was great fun to be with, my only regret is that he had to spend too much time in Caicos for the repairs instead of sailing. From Santiago we try to reach Puerto Plata via side roads, or rather dirt, muddy paths that run through small villages but have to turn back when they become too much for our small rental car.

Itzik inspects the road

Itzik inspects the road

March 27th – We leave Luperon at first light for Sosua. The wind is light, waves are coming from different direction and make for a bumpy ride. What bugs us most is the RAIN! But today’s leg is short, only 25 miles and we reach Sosua at 1145. Irregular swells get into the anchorage and we are rolling in a way that I am not accustomed on a catamaran. We take the dinghy ashore. The scene reminds us of a tourist town in Thailand: bars, beach restaurants and a lot of little shops with sign in foreign languages. Even the tropical flora is quite the same.

Sosua

Sosua

We walk in town, find an Internet café and check the forecast. It is very confusing… NOAA, on it’s High Seas Forecast give strong winds and big waves while Wind Guru reports maximum 12 knots. The explanation is probably High Seas versus close to shore conditions. I get a Dominican haircut (“Very professional! You new people now!”) and some needed supplies including a bottle of whiskey that airline security will not allow to take on the flight.  Launching the dinghy on the steep shore with surf rolling in proved to be difficult and very wet, but the only damage was two broken eggs.

March 28th – Mr Van Sant recommends leaving Sosua for Rio San Juan after midnight, but for us it was again first light, and condition were similar to what we had the day before. The only difference was that we caught a Spanish Mackerel before the heavy rain came. The sky cleared when we got near our destination and a good thing it was too because getting to the anchorage was something I have never experienced before and hope not to go through again. A river flows out and makes the water muddy so you cannot see below the surface. You go in between a reef and sandbars on which waves are breaking. The bottom comes up gradually and you are asking yourself:”Can I trust the book? Do the fishing boats anchored ahead mean that I can go there too?”. As we inch slowly forward a fisherman in a small boat appears and gestures in the direction of a mooring. “Por la noche, OK?” I try my broken Spanish.  He nods and gives us the thumb up sign. I maneuver the yacht slowly so that Itzik will catch the mooring line. We tie another line to make a bridle and shut down the motors.  

Rio San Juan

Rio San Juan

Note the breaking waves in the distance!

As I write this, the wind is from the east and the waves are coming in from the north, rolling us without mercy. This wil not be a very good night!

March 29th – Our goal today is Puerto Escondido, which the book describes as “Norwejian (sic) like Fjord, a peaceful anchorage in light easterlies… Do not enter with north swells running”. How do I know what swells will or will not be there in the afternoon? Anyway we are committed and start by motoring around Cabo Frances Viejo, in heavy rain. What a way to start your day! Things clear up considerably as we turn towards Escondido. A Northeasterly of about 15-18 knots spring up and we are sailing at over 7 SOG even though I left the sails at first reef to account for the waves. The result is that we get to Escondido at 1420 . But where are the village and the Fjord? On shore we spot a hut and two shacks. The NE wind brought the undesirable North swell and the sea looks like the inside of a washing machine at the rinse cycle. “We are going around, we have to divert” I tell Itzik. The only reasonable course of action is to go on to Samana. About 30 miles away. Can we get there in daylight? Maybe, but I am confident we can enter the harbour in the dark, with a half moon in the sky, the GPS and Radar. First we motor against the wind and seas to go around Cabo Cabron. As we turn east and then SE we can sail at good speed. We pass two monohulls and a small catamaran going west, they are going to spend a rainy night at sea, a thing we will gladly give up after two restless nights at anchor. Last leg onto Samana, we pass a big cruise ship on her way out and drop anchor at 1920. Samana has the reputation of a place where dinghies and outboards get stolen, so when we go ashore for dinner we chain the dinghy, the motor and the fuel tank to the pile in the dock. A guy fishing there assures us that he will keep an eye on it but when we come back we see he has relegated the task to another… Back to the boat and, hopefully a quiet, undisturbed sleep.

Leaving Samana

Leaving Samana

March 30th – Today we have about 50 miles ahead of us to Punta Macao, described as the Bora Bora of the Caribbean. We go out with light wind and flat seas in the bay, passing a small fishing boat that is going back to the harbour, we see the men in it waving their hands and pointing in Samana’s direction. What’s on their mind, I wonder. I put the fishing lure in the water, go back to the helm and as I get there the reel sings! That was quick! Slowing down I pull in a small Tuna, good for a meal for two. Enough fishing then, let’s go sailing. As we leave the protection of the bay, the fishermen”s warning, for that’s what it was, is realised. The wind picks up, we need to put in first, second reef and when it reaches 30 knots – third reef. After a while it stabilises at 20-25 knots and we can sail our desired course. However, it does become apparent that we will not be able to anchor in Punta Macao which is open to the north. The alternative is one – go on to Punta Cana marina, another 30 miles away. It looks like we will be able to make it in daylight – but just! Luckily, after passing Punta Nisibon we can bear away some 20 degrees, raise the main to the more efficient second reef, open the jib some more and charge ahead at around 8 knots SOG (speed over ground). “Two Oceans” is rising and descending on the waves that come from port with no problem except for the single “Big One” that towered above the awning and drenched whoever was out at the moment, yours truly… The fastest speed indication was 12 on the ST 60 and 11.5 on the GPS. The last 9 miles after Cape Engano were dead downwind and we reach the marina at 1730, well before sunset.

Punta Cana

Punta Cana

Dinner was the Tuna we caught: Sashimi for first course (we have soy sauce and Wasabi on board, can you believe it?) and then Tuna fillets in the oven with boiled potatoes. No more ice cream I’m afraid! We go to the resort restaurant for WiFi and check the forecast. Not so good! We’ll check again before we leave tomorrow.

March 31st – Here’s what was not so good: “In the Mona pass Northeasterly 25-30 knots with waves 12 feet”. To go or not to go? That is the question! Later after we came back into the marina, I reflected on my decision making process Iand realised that I still have the “Schedule mentality”, the feeling that I have to stick to the plan for reasons other than the nautical ones. Must get rid of it! What happened is that I opted to go, we went out and then, in a lapse of concentration, I passed a buoy on the wrong side and grounded for a minute or two, opened throttles, back to the channel and out to sea only to see that wind is 28 knots and that the waves, in contrast with yesterday, are from ahead. Reason returns and so do we.
So what now? Wait for a “Weather Window?”. At least I’ll do some laundry…

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