22 April 2022: Sleepless in Samana
22 April 2022
Puerto Del Valle, Dominican Republic
Samana, 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
22 knots gusting to around 27 knots
Not a cloud in sight!
Balmy for this time of year
Dry, thank goodness!
After a couple of days of relaxing at anchor, it was time to see about a jump to Puerto Rico. The original forecast said we could wait a few days and then make it Puerto Rico but the Mona Passage can get pretty nasty with a weather routing so I wanted to be sure.
I spoke to Jose and Liliia on SV Fury about their plans and the forecast that I downloaded before arriving was the most up to date forecast we had. And it was now a couple of days old, there was no guarantees that it was still accurate.
I decided that I would pull anchor and head out into the bay to get reception.
Once I found it, I send messages to Jamie about weather planning and I tried to download a new forecast to my offshore app for Predict Wind. Let’s just say the reception was intermittent at best so I had to motor and drift about for most of the morning.
I was glad that I went to the trouble of checking because the newly refreshed forecast and Jamie both suggested the weather window to get to Puerto Rico had closed. Our best bet was to head around the corner to Samana to wait for the next one. I did not really fancy hanging out in Samana anchorage, the place where my dinghy motor was stolen while we slept back in 2019 despite being locked to the dinghy which was locked to the boat.
It was not very appealing to think of someone invading my space while I was alone, vulnerable and asleep. And I had not heard reports lately of whether the anchorage in Samana had gotten better or worse.
But now that I had the updated forecast and some advice from Jamie, I radioed SV Fury to see if they wanted to come over for an early dinner to make a plan (Jose, Liliia and their two daughters Lia, 7, and Ksenia, 5). We decided the best thing to do would be leave late that night around 11pm and go to Samana. Friends of mine were in the marina there and the cost was less than $40 USD per day, this seemed like a good solution to my worries about the anchorage. And it was SV Fury’s plan to head there too.
It helped that both Jose and I wanted to remove the heat exchange off of our engines and give it an acid bath. I hoped this would solve the general issue with my engine constantly being on the cusp of way too hot. This working with acid job seemed like a job definitely easier to do on a nice stable dock rather than rocking at anchor. Plus the photos I had seen of the pool and the sounds of the hot showers and other facilities in the reviews, it sounded like a luxury retreat!
While we finished dinner and prepared to part ways for some sleep before departure in a few hours. We had seen a boat approaching the whole time we ate, but now it was a couple hours later we could see it was friends on Troubleshooter. I realised this was perfect instance to test the intercom on my mast, something I knew I had but everytime I thought to try it out I was in a crowded anchorage. This would be perfect.
I told my new friends about it and turned it on. Echoing across the bay was my voice saying:
“Troubeshooter, Troubleshooter, Troubleshooter. Please be aware of where you drop your anchor. I do not want to see any of Jason’s amateur moves today because I would be pulling anchor in a full hours and did not want to have to wake them up.”
I was quite pleased with myself for remembering to harass Jason after the Turks & Caicos rookie mistake. And I handed the microphone over to the kids to see what they came up with. I loved hearing how the minds of a couple of kids worked as they addressed baby Vera, the 7 month old saying things like “Vera, we are glad you are here. We like you. You’re cute.”
We decided to jump in the dinghy and say hello and goodbye before going down for a nap.
The forecast was not ideal but it was not bad. And we expected crappy conditions rounding the cape (the “crab claw” as I referred to it which makes a lot of sense if you look at it on a map).
SV Fury pulled anchor first and was already on the move as I finished stowing mine. And they seemed to be moving fast. In the end I would never catch up, but for the meantime we were in radio contact range.
The assumption of conditions around the cape being rough was accurate. I tried to improve things but leaving a wider stretch between me and the land but SV Fury charged right on through, only increasing their lead on me. Handsteering was required and I looked forward to conditions relaxing so I could have a break and maybe even get in a rest. But for the moment I was alert and running on adrenaline and was grateful I made a point to get a good nap in for a few hours beforehand.
As it turns out, the conditions would never improve. I handsteered through the entire night for a total of about 11 hours. SV Fury had arrived a couple of hours earlier and dropped anchor outside the marina to have a sleep as it as not yet open. But I arrived as they were opening so I radioed in to explain that I wanted to know if they had an available slip and that I needed diesel fuel first.
I was exhausted and so looking forward to tying up and sleeping. However, what I did not anticipate is that the English speaking harbormaster was away that day and there were no English speakers available on the radio. My brain was working at 10% capacity and on the best of days I did not know how to say things like “fenders” and “lines” in Spanish. Trying to communicate on the radio and determine what I needed for fenders and lines to approach the fuel dock was one of the biggest challenges so far since I left Connecticut. To be honest I think I would have struggled in English.
After getting my fuel (the answer was I needed lines on the starboard side of the boat and no fenders were required as the fuel dock had fenders affixed to it), I radioed to get directions regarding the slip I was being assigned.
I need to determine if I was going bow in or stern in first and which side to tie my lines, but I could not come up with any of the words. Even with a bit of charades with the fuel dock employee I barely got my questions across and the answered I required. Part of the confusion was likely that I thought a good word for lines/ropes was “ropas” only to remember later that day that “ropas” means “clothes”.
My understanding after a lot of floundering,was that I needed fenders on the starboard side and lines on all four corners of the boat. (Who knew the word for fenders in Spanish was “fenders”). I also had gathered that I would be going bow in first, so there was no need for me to adjust the way the dinghy was tied up.
A few of the marina employees and about five other local Dominicans left other boats to come and catch my lines, something I think they deemed important based on how incompetent I sounded on the radio. Struggling with the most basic of words. In retrospect the direct translation of my request for help is probably why so many men showed up to help:
“Es possible que una persona me ayuda con mis ropas por que yo soy soltera”
(“Is it possible that a perosn can help me with my clothes because I am single”)
What I meant to say was:
“Es possible que una persona me ayuda con mis lineas por que yo soy sola”
(“Is it possible that a perosn can help me with my lines because I am alone”)
As I approach the slip, of course it would be the most complicated one. A full u-turn with boats on every side into a tight slip with pilings to tie to. I started my approach and made the u-turn but immediately was not happy with it. Now that I had felt the way the water and wind was pushing me, I wanted to restart as I knew I would not clear the boat in the slip next to me.
With ten Dominicans watching from the dock and zero hours of sleep, I put it into reverse and revved it up quite high. Immediately all ten Dominican men assumed that I had panicked and not meant to rev so high and they were all jumping up and down and waving saying “No, no, despacio! Despacio!” (No, no, slow! Slow!). But what they did not know is that I did it on purpose, not only did I want to stop my momentum forward but if I was going to reverse out of the u-turn and do it again, I needed to get water moving along my rudder so that I could steer. Otherwise I would just drift into the boats on the other side of the fairway. I perfectly reversed out and executed the perfect park job, nice and slow, on the second time around. Putting it in neutral and heading forward to ensure a couple of lines made it to the dock.
I was so grateful for all of the people standing around helping, some of them jumping on board and getting every line secured. After things settled and everyone departed (with instructions for me to proceed to see the Armada in the marina office), I checked all of the lines and they were perfectly tied both in quality of knots and cleats but also in tension for the tidal range.
I was so grateful as I was way to tired to redo them. And I headed into the office to check in and then immediately return to the boat to sleep!
“Solo travel not only pushes you out of your comfort zone, it also pushes you out of the zone of others’ expectations.”
– Suzy Strutner