We had met a couple of transplanted Quebec lads, Roman and Sebastian, who now live in the DR and own a hotel in one of the small towns. They had sailed into Ocean World the previous day from Luperon. They recommended to us that we sail down to their small town, anchor for a few hours in front of their hotel, and from there it would be about a 14 hour sail to Samana. Sounded like great reasoning to Beth and I…and we made plans accordingly.
So, Wednesday morning, we began to prep ourselves and Moorahme. Coffee’d up, and ready to go, we notified the front office of our plans. Here in the Dominican Republic, you are required to have a “dispatcho” to depart from a harbour. The Immigration folks are involved, as well as the Dominican Navy. Once you have paid your bill in full, and gained permission/clearance from both the parties mentioned above, you are good to go. All went well, we exchanged pleasantries, mine in English, theirs in Spanglish, and away we went.
Beautiful, calm conditions, 10:00 a.m. so not a bad departure time. Looking at a 4 hour sail down the coast, tuck into a nice little anchorage, rest, eat and carry on…great plan. Not all plans come to fruition. But first…let me tell you. The garbage in the ocean off the DR coast is unreal. Plastic, plastic and more plastic. Bags, of all sizes, shapes and colors. Plastic bottles of all sizes, shapes and colors. And a lot of them…I mean huge amount. Disgusting, and for boats, somewhat of a real pain in the butt of any of this plastic gets sucked into your engine cooling water system or the watermaker intake. Sad. Sad to see such blatant pollution.
We had a very nice run for the first hour, then things began to change. The winds picked up, and of course the waves picked up. My thoughts were that a 4 hour run down the coast and then sitting at a nice anchorage to rest, eat and wait for the wind/waves to calm down would work out just dandy. That wasn’t meant to be I guess. The “easy” access anchorage was rolling big time, and would not be for us today! We made a corporate decision to try on of Van Sant’s recommended anchorages on the lee side of a shore at Rio San Juan, a small fishing village about 5 hours or so further on. And on we went. The winds increased…the waves increased….hell, this is just as bad as sailing on Lake Erie on a windy day. The waves were confused, like a washing machine, breaking crests and conditions quickly became quite uncomfortable, not dangerous, but uncomfortable. Finally we began making heading into the lee side of the shoreline that we were seeking, and then finally the approach to the anchorage. Active Captain had some good reviews and information for us to use, and soon we were anchored, comfortably anchored, and it was time to eat and rest. Hooray!
At 7:30 p.m., with freshly brewed coffee on hand, it was time to pull up the anchor and begin the rest of our passage to Samana. We were the only “gringo” boat in the harbour, and we had been checked out by a few small fishing type boats…you know, the drive by type check outs that make a person just a wee bit nervous and happy to be moving on. So, up with the anchor, and point Moorahme to the first cape to sail past. Err, motor sail past…er…motor past. Winds on the nose…not again, but still. The winds had calmed, the waves also somewhat, and we were quite comfy heading down the coast. Once we motored past the coast, the winds shifted a wee bit, the waves picked up, and we were rocking and rolling! Holy crap…..I mean rocking’ and rollin’, time to get that head sail up and see if we can calm this ride down a bit. The rockin’ and rollin’ had woke Beth up…in fact had nearly thrown her out of the bed. So much for napping at this point at least. Getting the head sail up calmed Moorahme down from the high level race machine that she sometimes thinks she wants to be, and converted her back to the safe, easy motion cruiser that we love…and we picked up almost a full knot and a half. Woohoo! Beth stayed up for a while with me as we followed our previously set course on the iPad, radar running on the chartplotter…all is good, progress is being made. Beth returned to nap for awhile, to arise once again at 5:30 a.m. refreshed and ready to take over. I had a great night, the stars….let me tell you about the night skies down here. The stars are so plentiful, so bright, it seems like they dip right down into the boat….a nice half moon to partially light our way, some clouds here and there for contrast…it is truly an amazing night sky. The passage is accentuated with the odd flying fish skimming by, and phosphorous bits of sea water laminating down the side of the hull as we gently break through the waves….unreal! Just so unreal!
We communicated on occasion with another Canadian boat, PassionFever, who are from Quebec. Travelling with their children and enjoying life with no snow or minus 40 temperatures. They had a buddy boat to travel with, a single hander. This British lady single hands an Island Packet 44, I hope that Beth and I meet her before we leave, would be great to hear her story. The VHF or marine radio is nice to have on these long overnight passages, chatting with another boat just calms things somewhat, it’s always nice to know there is another boat relatively close by.
When Beth woke and came back topsides, it was time for me to have a quick nap. Shortly after laying down in the cockpit, I hear Beth excitedly saying, Ran, Ran, there’s a whale, there’s a whale! Sure enough, we were lucky enough to see at least one whale, I think there were a couple of them. Isn’t that something? Whales! So cool. I then laid back down to rest for a bit while Beth ran the ship. When I had laid down long enough, I think it was about an hour, conditions had changed somewhat. There was no wind…notta…nothing. We decided to leave the headsail up anyway, and continued on our motor passage to Samana. We were quite close by now, about 12 miles or so from the marina. As we rounded the last point to head into Samana Bay, you could see all the fisherman out in their very small fishing boats on what I would call big water. These boats are about 16 or 18 feet long, with an outboard on the back. Cool! Gutsy! Not for me…… We followed the channel markers in, and we noticed that there was a catamaran behind us who obviously thought he should be in front of us…lol…not today! I increased our engine’s rpm’s to 2500, our boat speed quickly increased to a little better than 7.5 knots…and this fella just would not be able to jump the line today. Hooray Moorahme! Love that big engine.
One other sailboat and I attempted to hail the marina at 8 a.m., no response. Hmmm. Tried again at 8:30…no response. Then the sailboat ahead of us announced that the marina did not open until 9 a.m. I asked him what his intentions were, and he responded that he had lots of fuel and would just ride around. Cool. We decided that we would motor in to the fuel dock and get fuel when they opened. As we entered the marina entrance, the fuel dock was to our starboard side. Beth noticed that one of the marina staff was waving at us to dock over towards the east end of the marina. I guess we’ll get fuel later. We followed the waving arms instructions…it’s a universal language you actually pick up quite quickly. When I saw the slip we were being assigned, I couldn’t believe it….no way we could get in there were my thoughts. But…believe it or not…I put this 47 foot boat into what looked like a 14 foot hole, not bumping anything or causing any grief or excitement….unreal! Thank goodness there were zero winds and zero currents. Still can’t believe we made it into this slip. Wow! We were quickly tied in, received some quick instructions from the dock hand…and whew…here we are.
We were approached by a local lad about having the boat washed…ahhhh, time to put the old negotiation skills to the test. How much? How much, c’mon my amigo, you’re killing me here, I’ve got kids to feed, dogs and cats, a wife…you’re much to young to retire……HOW MUCH? C’mon, lets have a beer and talk about this…oh man, I give you a beer and you’re breaking my arm man, you’re killing me! LOL…and on it went….until we arrived at a happy amount for the two of us, and 30 minutes later there were 3 very happy and very hard working guys scrubbing Moorahme down. Polished all the stainless, washed, waxed, scrubbed…oh my! And we had lunch and a few beer together…salami, cheese, pork tenderloin, crackers…and we all laughed an joked in Spanglish and English and Spanish all at the same time. Great guys!
Then, it was off to the infinity pool overlooking the ocean….met up with Craig and Bonnie from s/v Odin, great folks that we sort of knew back in Brunswick Landing marina…apparently they vividly remember the heckling from dock #8 to join in and have a few drinks every time they pedalled by on their bikes..lol! We quickly were caught up, enjoyed the pool and friendship, and then it was back to Moorahme for a quick nap…remember who had not bedded down since 5 a.m the day before….then up, dress and off to dinner at one of the local restaurants. After eating, it was really time for bed……and a good sleep was had by all!