27 April 2022: When Do I Leave?
27 April 2022
Samana, Dominican Republic
Puerto Real, Puerto Rico
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
15 knots forward of the beam
Not a cloud in sight!
Balmy for this time of year
Dry, thank goodness!
Initially when I entered the marina, I thought it would be a couple of days before I left for Puerto Rico. I really had to look closely at the budget when the weather kept pushing out further and further. Initially, I thought I would leave Monday but the forecast was constantly changing and now it was looking more like Wednesday. But again, the alternative was an anchorage in town that I was no so fond of.
I decided to stay and just make sure to get as many jobs done as I could on the boat to justify staying (and to get in a daily pool swim and hot shower as I did not know when my next one would be). I fixed the mainsail where a bolt had sheared on the track slide on my top batten. I finally solved where the oil in my bilge was coming from after over a month of cleaning it out every other day and trying to work out where in the heck the source of the oil was! Then I used my environmentally friendly bilge cleaner and the dock hose to give it a thorough cleaning. I removed the heat exchanger and went to give it an acid bath (only to find it was in perfectly good condition and did not need one) and put it back on. So much for fixing my overheating engine problem. It was pretty clear the heat exchanger was not the issue.
Aside from working on the boat I was checking the weather three times a day. I feel like weather on these kinds of passages was like trading stocks. When it comes to finding an up and coming stock, they say you should be weary once your taxi driver is talking about it. By this point it probably means that it is at its maximum hype and then you’d be buying at the peak. Well, when coming across this many boats all headed the same way across a temperamental stretch of water, there is going to be buzz about what the right time to leave is. It was easy to get caught up in pack mentality and not make the right decision for yourself.
As the weather kept pushing out, you were tempted to just wait with it. However, there was also the fear that the weather window would close all together and you would have wished you had left a couple of days earlier. Visions of an ever-increasing marina bill did not help this feeling.
I did not want to get caught up in it all the chatter so while shared any information I had and listened politely to others, I was going to act on Jamie’s advice regardless as he had yet to steer me wrong.
The end result was the most boats stuck with the Monday morning departure.
I was so grateful to have a coach, because the fear of missing out (FOMO) was so strong it was hard to be steadfast in my decision to wait another day. Then when the next tranche of boats departed Tuesday morning but Jamie advised that I wait one more day, I had to fight the feeling yet again. The poor harbormaster and Armada officials kept stopping by and asking when I was leaving and I kept having to push them out another day.
In the end, everyone had a good passage regardless of when they left – except for Troubleshooter who had an oil leak and turned around back to the marina to fix it. By the time I left, it was back to the original buddy boat gang with me, Pianissimo and Troubleshooter. However, as we passed the anchorage on the way out into the Mona Passage, Troubleshooter had issues with their water pump and pulled over to fix it and Pianissimo broke a halyard on their mainsail and also dropped the hook to see about a fix. So I entered into Mona Passage alone, comforted by the fact that I would rather have them behind me than ahead of me.
The forecast was perfect. The sea state was totally manageable and wind was ideal.
The passage was pretty uneventful other than I saw the dinghy had another leak and was completely deflated, again (at least I knew how to fix dinghies now). And the navigation lights stopped working. In lieu of the red and green standard lights, I opted to turn on my deck light. This meant that my white mainsail glowed in the dark of night so that at least I was easy to spot.
I spotted a vessel called SV Galaxy on my AIS screen and radioed to check in. We were headed to the same place so I made sure to let them know I was solo sailing and to please keep an eye out for me.
Even though the passage was only 150 nautical miles roughly, it would almost certainly be a two day sail. This is because I left in the afternoon to catch the weather that I wanted but that would mean sailing straight there would result in arriving at night. Friends on SV Fury had texted to let everyone know there were lots of crab pots and floats and so entering at night was not ideal. So the plan was sail through the first night and day and once I was in the lee of Puerto Rico I would heave to and get some sleep while waiting for first light to continue into port.
By the time I was in the lee of Puerto Rico it was already two in the morning on the second night. I tried to heave to but by the time the wind had lightened up so much that I could not do it. But with placid, lake-like seas, I decided to drop the sails and just drift. I set a 1,000-foot anchor alarm on my phone and set my normal watch alarm for every 30 minutes to check for traffic.
And to prove the wind was as light as I say it was, in the four hours I was resting I never drifted outside my anchor alarm zone.
Around 6:30am I debated getting going now that the sun was up, but I was so exhausted I decided to snooze the alarm for another 30-minute nap. However, it was not to be as I was woken up to Troubleshooter on the radio only ten minutes later giving me grief for letting them catch me.
I figured I had better just get my butt moving and into port and I could get some real sleep. I was way too tired to be bothered with sails so just motored in the last few miles.
I filled out my Customs and Border Patrol ‘paperwork’ on the CBP Roam app and submitted my arrival. They responded almost immediately with a video chat and before I had even dropped anchor I was checked into the United States again.
I was worried that I only had ten or twelve days left on my US visa and when I inquired with the agent on the call, she did not seem to want to work it out. So instead she just issued me an I-94 visa which gave me another six months. Easy peasy!
And it did not cost me a dime!
“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
– Thomas Jefferson
The sight of Tala’s main, brightly cast against the black night would have been magical from any other vessel…a shame there was not a record of such a sight!
Such calmness…even in the “placid, lake-like” conditions of the Shu, I have never been blessed!
I would love to see what she looks like from another vessel. I keep having trouble with my navigation lights so there is a chance one day we will find out!