Sunday, April 15, 2012

Beyond Bahamas

Travel day!  We cleared out of the Bahamas the previous day and are heading to the Dominican Republic.  We leave Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana around 7am the 29th of March.  After an hour of motor sailing, we shut down the engine and sail 3-4 knots.  The wind begins to shift and we pick up speed to 5-6-7 knots.  Smooth seas, sun out, music on, what more can I say, it’s a great day out on the water.  We’re comfortable and cruising fast towards our destination, French Cay, located in the Turks and Caicos.  We plan to spend the night there and then continue on to the Dominican Republic the next morning.

Sara at Luperon bay
By 6pm, we arrive at the south-end of West Caicos, only 16-miles to go.  We turn the corner and beat (this is when the wind is on the nose of the boat, a hard point of sail) across the banks the last 16-miles, elongating our trip another 6 hours.  Navigating into the anchorage by midnight, we drop the anchor and crash out.  Tomorrow will be longer yet.
Lind sighted - West Caicos
West Caicos sailing by
Nelly wedge against the starboard side
Six hours of sleep, if that, we wake up to the weather forecast.  Not sounding good for our original plan to cross the banks to east Turks and cross to the Dominican Republic from there.  Mike hails the other sailboats in the anchorage to see if anyone is heading to the DR.  Lucky us, two are heading straight there and two are heading across the banks.  We leave shortly with Wayward Wind and Spray, both heading in the same direction.  This is great news, to have other sailors within radio contact for a long crossing, one of the toughest in the Caribbean chain.  We head southeast to the Dominican Republic. 
Food along the way
Mike at the helm
The wind direction starts in the northeast, shifting to the east later in the day.  We start out flying, sailing 7 knots, close to our maximum hull speed, but eventually slow down as the wind shifts more out of the east.  In total, we sailed 35 hours from French Cay to reach our destination of Luperon, Dominican Republic by 6pm the following day.

Nelly learned to switch bunks for each tack
By nightfall, our progress slowed and we reefed in the sails to feel more comfortable while traveling in the dark.  We motor sailed on and off as needed for speed and battery charging, a total of 14 hours with the engine on.  By 9pm, we were ready to begin actual shifts at the helm (steering the boat).  I took the first shift from 9pm to midnight, while Mike napped below.  Mike took over from 12am - 3:30am and then I picked up from 3:30am-sunrise (6:30am).  At sunrise, I spotted LAND!   The beautiful green, jutting mountains of the Dominican Republic were a drastic difference from the flat and barren islands of the Bahamas, which don’t peak above 300 feet.
Sunrise at sea
Land sighted
We were so close to somewhere new and exciting!  I go down below and nap until 9:30am at which time I go into the aft cabin to get some drinking water before heading up to the cockpit with Mike.  To my unpleasant surprise, I see a couple inches of water on the floor and the water jugs floating.  For those that have a hard time waking up in the mornings, this will do it – the rush of adrenaline that the boat may be sinking is not a good one.  I call up to Mike that there is water in the back room and he says, “Of course there is, that’s where the water is kept”.  I relay, not that type of water and he comes jumping down below.
To our good fortune it was a simple fix.  We could see land, but were still 9 miles north of getting there and 23 miles from Luperon further east.  Mike identifies the problem, a leak in the cooling line to the engine.  I shut off the engine, while Mike goes below to repair the leak. 

Entering Luperon harbor
During this time, there is not the slightest breeze, so the Tanqueray is left bouncing around in the sea, getting closer and closer to Haiti than the DR.  Once the engine is fixed, we turn it on and start to make some headway towards our destination, very slowly.

Nelly at anchorage in Luperon
Luperon harbor - boats at anchor
Egrets at anchorage
Tack in, tack out, we work our way up the coast trying to lay the Luperon entrance with the wind on our nose.  Finally we get close enough to lay the entrance with the engine on.  We’re heading in.  It’s the most beautiful, calmest entrance we have seen, and maybe we are biased after being at sea for 35 hours, but we already love it here.  Granted the water is not crystal clear, as in the Bahamas, but the tall green mountains and cliffs dropping into the sea are a stark contrast to the sandy, flat Bahamas. 

We see fisherman at work, in wooden canoes, as we enter the harbor and then a multitude of sailboats, mostly blue water cruisers, while we enter in our 32-foot weekend warrior, as Mike calls her.

In town in Luperon

We have arrived, 193 miles from the Bahamas!  We have about 2 weeks to explore the Dominican Republic before we need to head back to Crooked Island to pick up our guests, Cindy and Matt.  The food is great here, fresh fruits and vegetables, the people are amazingly friendly, the scenery is beautiful and it is HOT.

Mike celebrating arrival to the DR


  1. Love the photo of 10 islanders in one boat- babies, children and no one worried about a life jacket... and Sara, aren't you glad you were thirsty when the boat was leaking? Love this post.

  2. Food along the way, that looks like a familiar dish. Great post as usual. Are you ready to go back to sea? Have a fast safe voyage. Love you guys, Dad

  3. Glad to see that your adventure continues! I hope to get to that area someday. Nelly is one lucky cat!