Thursday, February 5, 2015

23 Hours Later

We began our departure from Puerto Real with good-byes to Jacques, Raphaelle, Gaetan & Sylvain. Our paths will cross again and I am sure.

We put Puerto Rico behind us at 1:30pm and set course across the south end of the Mona Passage, skirting just south of Mona Island with a plan to be rounding the south-eastern end of Dominican Republic at day-break and then running up to Casa de Campo marina by lunch-time.
I had a plan of taking a photo on each hour of our planned 22 hour crossing, somewhat as a point of interest but also as a way of occupying the time. I did well through the afternoon but with nightfall once again a bit of a queasy stomach set in so doing anything with any level of focus was difficult. Will that ever go away or will it always plague me on night-crossings?
2:30- is Puerto Rico crying at our departure? These clouds drenched us for the first hour and then chased us halfway across the passage.
Henry sure is focused on setting our course.
3:30- an hour later and I have 8 gallons of fresh rainwater.
4:30- freighter crossing our path.
Jacklines are run - we tether our harnesses to these so we can't go overboard and get separated from the boat.
5:30- starting to think about a very simple dinner.
Our approach to Mona Island at the half-way point of the open water passage.
6:30- Mona Island now visible in the distance.
The last of the sun over the horizon.
No idea what time it was - just needed to eat... Stew and a bagel went down well, and thankfully stayed down.
It was about 9pm when we were directly south of Mona Island.
The moon rose behind us and the clouds finally started breaking up around midnight.
With alternating watches through the night I went down to sleep and apparently so did the camera.
There was a bit of excitement over night on the radio as a freighter bound for Jamaica was turned around by the coast guard just before Dominican waters (we crossed the boundary around 1am). The coast guard then got on the radio and requested a tanker and a cruise ship to alter course to maintain at least 2 miles distance from the ship they were escorting. We remained on our course as they maneuvered around us and were thankful that with our AIS we knew they could see us, our course and our speed. In the dark, watching a large cruise ship approach and knowing that they would pass just under a mile in front of us was a little nerve wracking but it was all executed to plan.
Right on time at about 5am we arrived at the DR coast, rounded Saona Island and learned firsthand just how poorly the area is charted. Our charts all show the area as having 400'-500' depths south of the island but as the depth suddenly came up to 30', 20' and then less than 15' we made a quick turn away from shore and out to deeper waters. We will be taking extreme care not to trust our charts, that's for sure. We later had a chat with another cruiser who has spent over a month on the south coast and in all that time has been completely unsuccessful in obtaining any good charts of the area.
As we pointed our bows north to head up Bahia Bayahibe, the winds finally came along as well and we had an absolutely perfect sail - beam reach up to 7 knots with lovely flat waters.
The morning parade of day sailers going from Bayahibe to Saona Island. Glad we stayed off-shore and off the 'highway'.
We're quite excited to cruise through this lesser (sailboat) travelled area but firstly we have a group of six friends from back home in Ottawa who will be staying here for a week. Looks like it is going to be a great spot.
A sneak peak at the Dreams resort.
A sneak peak at the Dreams resort.
The Dominican Republic is an interesting place with respect to customs and immigration. We have read and heard horror stories from people who have been "requested" to pay extra on top of the normal fees and situations where it has taken days to get properly checked in. Rumour and speculation abound and it is very difficult to get accurate and complete information since so many different agencies are involved.
We decided to simplify our experience and opted to check in through the services of a marina. Casa de Campo is just that - the largest marina on the south coast of the DR and attached to a massive resort community consisting of hundreds of condos and not one but four golf courses. They even have a helipad and a polo field - where polo actually gets played, really, we saw the sign with the time for today's game! The docks are solid and wide, to accommodate the golf carts that whip back and forth and for every sailboat there are probably 50 huge sport fishing boats. Twenty-three hours after leaving Puerto Rico, we were greeted by Felix who handed over our paperwork and then a cart with all the officials arrived: customs, immigration, port authority, navy & the sanitation man (we have international garbage). By the time we were finished we had parted with $170 in official fees, $10 for the customs officer's "lunch", but that was it. They did a cursory inspection of the boat but didn't go through and remove any of our food and were gone within the hour. All in all much smoother than we expected.
Our home on the dock.
Sun sets on another day, but this one presages a good night's sleep.
Our plan is to stay on the dock for two nights while we sort out our arrangements for the next week, and also investigate the possibility of getting the bottom of the boat painted while here. For now, we're both just ready for an early night.