Friday, February 19, 2016

Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico

Sailing for The Dominican Republic
Before we left, we bought machetes and I plotted a course that would keep us 20 nautical miles off the Haitian coast. We’d heard from other sailors about the pirate issues. All it takes is a fast boat with 3 ambitious Haitians pulling their money for enough fuel to take a run at us. It was a small worry but we planned accordingly. We never saw a boat and it was the most sedate Windward Passage ever made. Pleasurable miles made even better with perfect sunsets, and Cuban rum.

Traveling Companion Recap
Joe is a German by passport only, who actually bested me on my use of an English word, and rightfully so (completely embarrassing to be schooled by a non-native speaker). He is a very generous guy whose heart is in the right place and smart as a whip.
Chris is a true South African gentleman with a tremendous laugh that matches his physical stature. Think: very large jovial mammal.
Every time I found myself standing between the two of them I felt like I was at the bottom of a well. I had to go back to Central America to feel tall again.

Passage Making
Chris is the owner and captain, but he made me the navigator, and by default; the Spanish translator. As we progressed hundreds of miles to the east, the time zones changed and the watch on my wrist became as arbitrary as my waypoint selections. It took us a couple days to get from Cuba to The Dominican Republic. These were easy miles at sea.

There was about a 3 hour period in which we had 9 knots of wind on the beam and we were making 6 knots of speed. That Skabenga…. She can sail!
From my journal, “We were due to make land fall in the DR at 03:30. Instead we decided to cut the engines and ghost along under a scant jibsail doing 3.5 kts of speed in 8 kts of wind. Damn the main sail. What a performer.”

Our strategy slowed us enough to make landfall at first light as we entered the skinny water of Luperon. We parked the yacht a few times on the muddy bottom but it’s really not an issue in a catamaran.
I’m glad I wasn’t in Barraveigh. Our first impression: “This is going to be a great party. Look at all these boats!” Turns out they were almost all empty. “Luperon – where dreams & boats go to die”. I’ve seen it before in many other well protected anchorages; people leave their boats for a long spell that morphs into eternity. We encountered tales of divorce, and misplaced moxie.

Luperon was a dirty hot hell hole with zero allure. I tried to come up with something nice to say, sorry Mom. Joe and I got loaded one night and the taxi that tried to take us back to the boat got lost. We finally fired him and flagged down some kid on a motorcycle. I immediately gave myself a second degree burn on the exhaust pipe and yelled in Joe’s ear the whole way back to the boat.

This woman was sure I couldn’t lift her. 
When I say I pick up chicks it means I lift them off the ground

Further East – The Mona Passage
We motored due east from Luperon to Arecibo Puerto Rico. Like the Haitian pirates, we’d been warned about the notorious Mona Passage and its ability to beat the hell out of east bound ships. Like the Haitian pirates, the threatening conditions were nonexistent. We just got lucky.

Puerto Rico
The Spanish fort at the entrance of San Juan
We made landfall at Arecibo at about 1:30 in the morning, and hid behind a very small jetty while standing anchor watches until first light. Puerto Rico is American soil – good for me, not so good for Chris and Joe. Joe holds a green card but Chris had issues with his US visa when entering with a boat. Those two took a taxi to a faraway airport and got it sorted out. I relaxed in the aircon of Skabenga and caught up on sleep and Game of Thrones.

We left the next morning for the easy motor to San Juan. Once we reached the marina, I became a land based mammal again. This is where the trip would end for me. Airfare and logistics were much cheaper and easier from Puerto Rico than from St. Maarten.

There is a Sizzler at the marina in San Juan, and we gorged ourselves repeatedly. God I love America. Endless all you can eat buffets, and it's even better in a territory. We couldn't finish our 3rd bucket of beers so they packed them up to go. That would never happen on the continent. Here’s the negative – It’s America. It’s not exotic. It’s expensive. I used San Juan as a transit spot 20 years ago. It’ll probably be 20 years before I return.
I'm such a salesman

This pretty lady came to visit

Driving or sailing, I earn my miles. 
Flying feels like cheating. 

I’m writing this from a beach in El Salvador and I don’t know when I’ll be on an ocean going sailboat again. As I become nostalgic for my brethren of the sea and our adventures together, I harken back to a more innocent year and I remember the class of 2007 with whom I crossed the Pacific; worthy humans all. Suzi, that beautiful woman who braved it in true English style with the stiffest of upper lips, has announced she'll marry and is with child. I beam thinking of her joy. To the class of 2007: Afriki, Antares, Barefeet, Barraveigh (it wouldn’t sound right on the SSB without including myself in the role call), Blue Moon, Cacafuego, Cardea, Catrina, Creola, Dreamkeeper, Emelia, Helen Kate, Jade, Northern Winds, Priscilla, Serai, Silene, and certainly not least, Sora - I stand in awe of all those who've shared my path.  

What a sweet life of which I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself at the helm. I thank you, the entire cast, especially Chris and Joe for inviting me along, and for playing a role in my drama.

Your man on point,

1 comment:

The Edge said...

And I thank your mom, Jere, for letting me "tag along"!!!!


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