Monday, 27 April 2015

Along the way

The Wrong Way Tour 2015 set out to visit the Dominican Republic and we stopped at Haiti because it was on our route.  In actuality, I think this tour really was to visit Haiti and the DR was just a stop along the way.

We arrived at Ile a Vache at 2:30 am this morning, after leaving Barahona on Friday evening.  It was a long sail, longer than we'd hoped, but for the most part it went fine.  We discovered the true downwind sailing, with the wind coming directly over the stern of the boat, presents its own challenges, mainly on holding the course.  Our wind vane self steering wasn't such a fan of holding an accurate downwind course, and our electronic autopilot gave up on it a few times as well.  So we were stuck holding the wheel ourselves (fun for only about ten minutes) or sailing slightly off wind, and also slightly off course.  However, it was great to sail with the waves behind us, instead of coming straight at us.

Highlights include a green and white flash across the sky.  Just after dawn on Saturday the Captain looked up and a meteorite was visible, tracking across the sky for three or four seconds, bright green with a white tail. Either that or the aliens have felt the same way about the DR as we did and were heading for home.

We also had a great little sail up the Beata Canal, with nice winds and flat seas. It's shallow waters, five to twenty meters deep. I was on the helm and had good fun.  We had a fishing boat approach us as we entered the canal and wave a giant grouper at us, an offer of fish for sale, but we declined the opportunity to have a good size fishing boat raft up to us while we were moving quickly and navigating currents and shallows!

We are now enjoying the lovely harbour at Ile a Vache.  It may be a developing country, but we've certainly received first class service this morning, with several people that we'd met previously out in dugout canoes, catering to our every whim - well, a package of cigarettes for the Captain and a SIM card set up for mobile data for the Crew. Yay for Haiti!

We like this spot, and the winds are forecasted to be a bit much for us to move on this week, so I expect we'll just have to suffer through some really fast internet, beautiful white sand beaches, and fresh bread from the local bakery. It's a tough life. :)

If you'd like to follow along,we are at: N18 06.259  W73 41.730
 Copy the GPS location above, click through to and paste the coordinates in the box in the upper left hand corner.  Push the 'Convert and map' button and you will see where we are. On the upper right hand side is an option to toggle map vs satellite view.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The wonders of waltzing west

All right, all right, I will stop all this lazing about in tropical locations and write another blog post! 

(Actually much thanks to those of you who emailed me and gently asked, "Haven't seen a post lately, are you OK?" It's so nice to know that people actually read this stuff. :)

We are well.  Very well, in fact. UNBELIEVABLY well, really.  You know why?  (Because the Captain loves the fact that the Dominican's make their beer in 1L bottles?  Partly, but stay with me here...)

We are doing so well because we are going WEST!

Now, if you're a regular reader, you know that we have spent the last month trying to do the impossible in the Caribbean - sail east into the prevailing wind and waves.  And honestly, by the time we got to Las Salinas, we were taking it personally.  The Captain and I were having deep discussions about how maybe we just didn't know enough about sailing, maybe our lovely boat was just too old, and these were the reasons why the sailing had been so hard.  We pretty much gave up on going further east.  (We'd also not heard very nice things from other cruisers about the marina further on where we were planning to stop.) 

We just weren't feeling the sailing love.

Las Salinas is a resort town with some country homes for wealthy Dominicans who live in the city.  During the week there is no one there, but during the weekend we saw lots of BMWs, Landrovers, and Mercedes, not to mention a whole pile of kite surfers.  It's windy and pretty, but there isn't much to do other than drink beer in all of the little bars/shops/restaurants - we were there a week and went to a new one each day, so we got through most of them.

On Sunday, we decided we'd tried all the bars worth trying, and it was time to blow this popsicle stand. We had to sail back to Barahona to check out of the country with customs & immigration, a sail due west, across a bay where we'd sailed in extremely uncomfortable conditions twice before.  We were nervous.

But you know what? It was an AWESOME sail!  It appears we do know what we're doing - we just have to go west!  The wind was not too strong, coming across our port stern quarter, and we had a lovely, flat, uneventful sail back to Barahona. Wooo hoooo!

So that settles it my friends - the 2015 Wrong Way Tour has suddenly started to go right for a change (actually, that will be left looking at the map, but let's not mix too many metaphors here.)

It seems, in spite of not intending to come here at all, that Barahona will be the town that we know and love best here in the Dominican Republic.  Yesterday the laundry man greeted us with a smile, the pineapple/water seller gave me a kiss on the check to say welcome back, and the immigration dude tried once again to sell me a day trip to a nearby lake, but graciously took my "No thanks" when I offered him a beer instead. I can guarantee you that this town isn't going to make the top 10 lists of "places to go in the Dominican Republic," but it's certainly made the top of our list. 

Instead of drinking beer in bars, we are trying to set the record for how many days in a row we can go to the grocery store.  Our game will be up by the weekend, as we plan to head south, retracing our steps back the way we came. Best guestimate is that we will be back in Montego Bay, Jamaica by mid May. (But we're sailors, so don't put any money on that.)

They say it's all down wind from here, folks!

P.S. This is the windward side of the beach in Las Salinas: you can see the enTIRE thing! (Bad joke by the Captain)

P.P.S. We bought these in the grocery store - Salsa China?  But soy sauce, of course.  Salsa Inglesa? (English sauce is the literal translations) But Worcestershire sauce, of course!

If you'd like to follow along, we are at: N18 12.869  W71 5.280
Copy the GPS location above, click through to and paste the coordinates in the box in the upper left hand corner.  Push the 'Convert and map' button and you will see where we are. On the upper right hand side is an option to toggle map vs satellite view.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Not exactly a breeze

Happy Sunday from windy Las Salinas, Dominican Republic!

After an early start (anchor up at 5 am) we arrived at Las Salinas at 3 in the afternoon. I'm not going to tell you how far it is, because our speed record on this one was bad. (Remember again that thing about going east in the Caribbean? Not so much fun.) We motored two thirds of it and sailed the last bit, although we never did find the shelter from the land we were looking for, so it was another close haul.

Las Salinas seems to be pretty much a hotel resort and some holiday homes, so we are feeling good about the provisioning and laundry we did in Barahona. More exploring to confirm first impressions tomorrow.

Anyone's guess as to how long we'll be here. Once we know, I will let you know.

The photo shows our neighbour in Barahona. He just fit in the anchorage and we had to move for him to go in or out.

If you'd like to follow along,we are at: N18 12.883  W70 32.569
Copy the GPS location above, click through to and paste the coordinates in the box in the upper left hand corner.  Push the 'Convert and map' button and you will see where we are. On the upper right hand side is an option to toggle map vs satellite view.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Never trust a sailor

After a long day of sailing yesterday, we are now in... Baharona. Now, if you were paying attention to the blog, you'd know that this isn't where we set out to go.

Up at the crack of dawn yesterday, the anchor was up at Isla Beata and we had the sails out and engine off within thirty minutes. We had an awesome sail through the channel between the island and the mainland, due to the flat water (it was only 5 to 10 meters deep in most places) and nice breeze so we only had to make one tack. The deeper swell at the outlet of the channel was a bit of a pain, but we cut ourselves some slack - sea will get choppy when you force five hundred meters of water up into twenty meters - and the afternoon saw a favourable wind shift sending us straight to Las Salinas. The Captain was deep into a Dick Francis novel when the seas started to pick up at about 7:00 in the evening. Although he said later that he resented not being able to finish his book, we shortened sail. To not much avail. The waves grew and the wind strengthened. We brought in more sail and eased off the main to de-power the boat, but we were still heeling too much. To give you an idea, I had most of my weight on my feet while "sitting" in the cockpit; my feet were braced against the other side.

Finally an executive decision was made (forced on us?) to give up on Las Salinas, which would have required a close haul over nearly insurmountable swell, and to make for Barahona, which was mercifully downwind, running with the waves, and about 15 miles closer. The Captain will tell you that he thought we should go to Barahona all along, but I know that when we had light wind and were making course, he was just as pleased to go to Las Salinas as I was.

For the non-sailors who are reading, think of it this way - we could continue going to the right, had the boat on its side (which it is designed to do, but this was a bit much), and not go in the right direction to a destination that was further away, OR we could go left, stand the boat up, and go to a closer destination that was much easier on the way. Duh.

Although heading downwind in 25-30 knots of wind with 3 meter swells wasn't exactly easy. We hand-piloted in fifteen minutes shifts, and I was very disappointed when I asked how much longer my shift was to discover I'd only been on the wheel for three minutes!

All's well that ends well, as they say. Here we sit in a pleasant anchorage in Baharona. Items of note include that our immigration official who cleared us in to the DR this morning would also like to sell us a tour to see an inland salt water lake complete with crocodiles (we're not going), there is a five foot section in the grocery store just dedicated to olives-yay, and we have to move the boat out of this cosy little anchorage at 6 am tomorrow morning so a commercial ship can come into the dock, but we can come back in again once it is docked.

We've been told the commercial ship is staying for a few days, and I think we might too. Happy Easter!

If you'd like to follow along,we are at: N18 12.869  W71 5.280
Copy the GPS location above, click through to and paste the coordinates in the box in the upper left hand corner.  Push the 'Convert and map' button and you will see where we are. On the upper right hand side is an option to toggle map vs satellite view.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Champagne in a beautiful place

Just after I pressed send on the last blog post in la Bahia de Las Aguilas, we received a VHF call from "Mr. Fizz." At first, the Captain thought they knew him and were calling "Mr. Phil," but it turned out to be a very friendly couple from France on the sailboat "Mr. Fizz" who were about half way through their one year of sailing from France through the Caribbean and home again. They had come from the Dominican Republic, and although they spoke English well, they said their Spanish wasn't so good and they were happy to find people with whom they could socialize. They invited us to join them for drinks on the beach and, they had a bottle of Champaign to share! (They said they had a friend back home who made the stuff-guess we need more French friends...)

We had a great evening drinking bubbly on a moon-lit beach. The sand was stunningly soft and white with only a few shells for distraction and stretched on for miles in either direction.

This morning we left the pleasant anchorage and we thought we had an easy sail planned for Isla Beata, a few hours away. Well, six hours later after sailing close to wind through some choppy seas, we've arrived. Isla Beata is the southernmost point of the Dominican Republic, and although very beautiful, it is mostly uninhabited, with only a few fishermen and a coast guard station.

The officials came out to meet us in a fishing boat, as we were told they would, and were very friendly and courteous, despite the language barrier. There was paperwork to be done, of course, and that was obviously not their forte, especially in a foreign language. In fact, on the crew list for the 'despacho,' the piece of paper that gives us official permission to move from here to our next port of call, the Captain's name was listed as "First Name" for a short period of time, until we gently corrected the error. Tee hee hee

Tomorrow is up early and another full day of sailing. We plan to arrive in Las Salinas sometime tomorrow evening, but it's more 'easting' and judging from our experience today, it might take longer than we think. Cross your fingers for a good angle on the breeze...

If you'd like to follow along,we are at: N17 36.284  W71 31.732 Copy the GPS location above, click through to and paste the coordinates in the box in the upper left hand corner.  Push the 'Convert and map' button and you will see where we are. On the upper right hand side is an option to toggle map vs satellite view.