19 April 2022: Push On
19 April 2022
Luperon, Dominican Republic
Puerto Del Valle, Dominican Republic
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
Ranging from 20 gusting to 25 knots upwind with the crappiest sea state ever TO 15 knots on the beam with glassy calm water.
Cloudy, blustery, occasional squalls
Balmy for this time of year
Dry, between squalls anyways.
I needed motivation to move on. I wanted this bloody “thorny path to windward” and my least favorite harbor behind me!
But there was still a long ways to go.
Luperon needed to be left in my dust. And if I never saw the place again, it would be too soon. I had new items to add to the list of reasons why I maintained my stance as anti-Luperon. Particularly the fact that every government official in town knew that I was sailing alone on my boat. And the way they all gathered outside the government buildings and cat call people (something I do not entirely mind as it is part of the culture and not intended in a threatening way), meant that every person within a two block radius knew that I sleep alone on my boat.
I never officially felt threatened but it is a fact that I do not like to advertise.
Also, while I did not have lug my own fuel and water like in George Town, local businessman Papo and his two boys who worked for him drop it off and fill you up for a reasonable rate, I suspect those two boys scope out boats while they do it. I had been in Luperon for two weeks with no issues. However, the very next morning after fueling up (and them realising I keep my dinghy pump in my dinghy), I awoke to find it missing.
Everything else on the boat was locked and secured.
i did have one regret about needing to keep up with the seasons and this now arrived weather window I needed to take. Friends Jenn and Dan who greeted me on my arrival at their newly opened restaurant in town and who had me over for Jenn’s birthday and other such social events while I was in town, were facing a tough situation. Dan was riding his motorcycle outside Puerto Plata when he was in an accident. From my understanding he was on the highway, was not wearing a helmet and the other motorcycle, a local Dominican driver, had been killed in the accident.
Dan was currently in the ICU in Puerto Plata and the restaurant was now closed. The cruising community really came together to try and support them in whatever way possible. The most important being setting up a Go Fund Me as Dan and Jenn did not have health insurance and he would definitely require plastic surgery and might require brain surgery. Dan had also let his Canadian passport expire and had no other passports to his name. I hope she reached out to the embassy regardless for help. I hope she also sought legal help as the word on the street is that even if Dan made a full recovery he may face legal repercussions for whatever the Dominican equivalent of manslaughter is. As Jenn was now spending all her time in Puerto Plata doing anything she could for Dan, it was hard to know how to help aside from the Go Fund Me.
At least I knew some friends who were staying behind for hurricane season in Luperon would be making sure that they had help if they asked for it.
I wished I could have given them both a hug before leaving and had some reassurance that Dan would be alright. But as it stands, for the moment he is semi-conscious and waiting to see a specialist about whether or not he requires brain surgery. And that is all we know for now.
On a more positive note, the generous help of my friend Jay on SV Freida Kai meant that my dinghy was functional again. It was a lot of patching, a lot of dinghy glue and even some 3m 5200 glue to secure the transom properly. I was so grateful for the help and knowledge as my previous amateur attempts to patch it were not sufficient and I was beginning to lose hope of every fixing it. But now it looked like a professional had sorted it out, it was super strong.
Like every good cruiser who wants to stop at Puerto Del Valle, I lied to the Armada and said I was headed for Samana directly. If someone questioned why I was at the anchorage two-thirds of the way to Samana, you just say the weather turned bad or you had engine problems. There was no official port there so you could not tell them you planned to stop there.
Leaving the Luperon harbour and I was reminded that actually the ocean is blue and can be clean looking. Something I needed after a couple of weeks in my least favourite place.
I left around lunch time as it was a 24-hour sail (a little over 100 nautical miles) and in the Dominican Republic. I hope this meant only the early portion of my sail would be crappy, upwind conditions. I liked to plan the worst parts of my sail to be when I was least likely to be exhausted.
Before leaving I went to turn on my Garmin In-Reach but it would not turn on. I assumed it just needed to be charged but even while plugged it, I could not make it work. I was still in reception so was texting friend Ed (my float plan contact) about it and he sent me some information about it requiring a software update. I brought my laptop upstairs, something I never do as I worry about it getting wet. But I needed to download the software update to be able to use it.
I could not get enough of a signal to sort it out, but friends of mine told me I would have reception at Puerto Del Valle so I figured I would worry about it then.
Though pretty sloppy sea state now, I expected totally different conditions after sundown due to the katabatic winds that would roll through at night (for an explanation of katabatic winds, check out the video here that I made in 2019 which includes an explanation).
And oh boy I hoped the conditions would be drastically different, it was pretty exhausting. And I know I was not the only one who felt this way. Many of the vessels had chosen to take the same weather window – departing at various times throughout the day – and word was that a lot of them had at least one sick crew member on board. I felt very lucky that I tolerate motion so well and typically only deal with a little bit of lethargy when “seasick”.
I certainly was not plotting what I should make for lunch though as I had zero appetite.
I had a few friends stop by to cheer me on and keep me motivated to continue the slog. These beautiful creatures sure made it seem easy to move through the waves. Lucky them!
As I got tired, I tried to stay positive and tell myself things would be different at night.
Friends on Pianissimo tapped out and pulled into the anchorage at Sosua. I was concerned for
them as when planning my route using the weather window, I knew it was crucial to make it to Puerto Del Valle on this window so that I was ready to use the next window to jump to Puerto Rico as soon as it presented itself (ideally a few days later). I also know they did not research any of the anchorages on the north coast before departing as a backup so that meant that I was texting them photos of the book that was best known for advice on sailing this part of the world: A Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South. I did not have the book, but I had taken pictures of Savannah and Jason’s on Troubleshooter in advance of my departure just in case. Plus, if they fell behind now due to being a bit tired, they would be waiting longer for a weather window that may not turn up. And I was surprised they gave up so soon. We were all handsteering in these conditions so it could not have been the fact that the rest of us all had some sort of autopilot solution. But I resisted the urge to encourage them to keep going, as I needed to do what was best for me and they could make their own decisions.
A short while later, just after dark, the winds completely shifted and it was incredible at how fast that settled the sea state. Suddenly I was sailing, wind on my beam on the calmest water I could have asked for. It was glassy and eerie after a day of upwind bashing. But the stars were out and doing their best to impress. And my night sail was perfect. I felt extra disappointed for Pianissimo that they had not stuck it out.
My sail went smoothly from there on until I began to approach the last bay that my anchorage was in. The point of sail that was comfortable had me sailing near south into the bay and once I was as far south as I would go I would motor east to the anchorage.
However, there was a flaw in this plan. The charts read that it was quite deep right up to the south coast of that bay. The problem was that those labels did not continue all the way to shore. So I did not realise, but I had no idea how deep it was between the last labelled depths and the rocky coastline. And the waves that were coming in the bay from a North East direction were rolling across the entire Atlantic from Spain (in my imagination) because it was wide open Atlantic in that direction as far as the eye could see.
As I continued to sail south in relatively large waves, I was analyzing the charts to decide when I should turn east. However, while doing this I realise the waves were getting quite large and a wave right in front me broke. I was a little confused as I thought I had plenty of depth here and was unsure why waves would be breaking. But instead of wasting time trying to figure it out, I tacked and whipped a 180 degree turn to head away from shore. I had no desire to find out how Tala holds up against breaking waves. It took a long time motorsailing against the waves until a point where I was comfortable again before turning east, much further from shore than before. I had added a good six hours to what had already been a long and tiring sail with this silly oversight.
My friends on SV Fury had warned me over the radio that I would have no receptions whatsoever after entering the bay so I sent all my text messages beforehand. Letting my float plan contact, Ed, know I had arrived and that SV Fury would make sure I made it to anchor. Texting Jamie to let him know I would be unreachable as the Garmin never updated and I would have no reception. And messaging a few other vessels, including Pianissimo, to download the latest weather report before entering the bay when they got here.
It turns out Pianissimo had decided to continue on the next day, despite the forecast saying it would be messy again and also advice on the area insisting on travel at night. They got pretty beat up and decided to stop at yet another unresearched anchorage. This one with known poorly charted reefs. So again I found myself digging up photos of the book to send them before I was out of reception and unable to send them.
I arrived, dropped anchor and hailed SV Fury to ensure they knew I had arrived and did not continue to worry about me. And now, I was definitely going to sleep well!
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
– Nelson Mandela