Tag Archives: #dominicanrepublic

Overnighters

Doing an overnight passage is not my favourite part of sailing – well, actually, it’s my least favourite part – arriving at our destination and exploring is much more fun! But, hey, sometimes you’ve just gotta do it!

And, so it was when we had to make the big jump from the DR (Dominican Republic) up to The Turks & Caicos in our quest to reach The Bahamas. 198nm (367kms or 299miles) is the distance we needed to cover to reach Grand Turk in The Turks & Caicos.  At an average speed of 6 knots, we estimated it would take us about 33hrs and if we left at 6am from Samana Bay in the DR, we should reach landfall on or around 3pm a day later in T&C. The weather window indicated the winds were ENE which suited us but they would be light to start, building to about 25knots along the journey. Alright, let’s do it!

Of course, you can’t just throw off the lines and sail into the sunrise! We needed to prepare.  Food first! In case the weather is bad and you don’t want to spend too much time indoors, you need ready-to-go and easy-to-manage food. So I set about preparing: we’d have our normal cereal for brekky, soup with toasted cheese and vegemite sandwiches for lunch, red peppers stuffed with jambalaya  for dinner and apple fritters/pancakes for snacks. We also had fruit, dry biscuits and muesli bars in the ‘snack basket’. It’s amazing how hungry you get in the middle of the night! Oh, and we had a take-away pizza from the restaurant at the marina which went down a treat!

Cheese and vegemite sangers ready to be toasted!
Cheese and vegemite sangers ready to be toasted!

Next, check the Grab Bag. Well, actually, create a Grab Bag! One of those ‘just-in-case’ things; a bag full of everything we might need if we had to abandon the boat, God forbid!

Items in our Grab Bag: water, flares, phone, dinghy key, flare gun, torches, horn, Leatherman, whistle, passports and important documents, wallet.

Next, get our harnesses out. We both wear a harness at night or in bad weather and it is always clipped on, especially if the other person is not in the cockpit.

The Despacho, Shephard, came aboard at 6am and cleared us to leave. It  was still pretty dark and as we traversed the channel we nearly clipped the starboard buoy – it wasn’t lit and Mal couldn’t see it. Not a great start! Motoring along to exit Samana Bay we then proceeded to nudge four fishing buoys tied together – egads, I was meant to be on lookout! Luckily for us they didn’t get tangled in our props and we counted our lucky stars!

As we headed out of the bay our fortunes changed and we were lucky to catch sight of some North Atlantic Humpback whales. Lots of spouts and tails kept us entertained.

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During night passages we aim to have 2hrs on-watch and 2hrs asleep but it never seems to work that way. This time we got into a rhythm of Mal being 1hr off and 2hrs on with me have 2 glorious hours of sleep and being on watch for 1! 🙂 Mal was happy with it and so was I! 🙂

We set the phone stopwatch for 12 minutes. When it goes off whoever is on watch stands up and does a full 360 of the horizon. Ships can come up on you very quickly at night and we know of friends who were hit from behind by a ferry. Fortunately, they’re OK but you have to be very vigilant!

During the night we went past Silver Banks and Navidad Bank which are two shallow areas where the North Atlantic Humpback whales come to mate and calve. On my watch I could smell whales on at least four occasions which was quite scary as we definitely wouldn’t want to hit one! I cranked up the playlist and sang louder so they might hear me. The first few glimpses of sunrise are so uplifting and such a relief after a long, dark and sometimes, cold night.

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Sunrise between DR and The Turks & Caicos

As the morning progressed the winds picked up and Mal put a 2nd reef in the mainsail and pulled in the heady a little. With winds hitting over 25knots we reached 10.2 and the direction made it possible to alter our destination to South Caicos. This meant we’d have an extra 27nm to go but we had plenty of time to arrive in daylight.

9.4 knots well above our anticipated average of 6!
9.4 knots – well above our anticipated average of 6!

We are pretty good at dodging squalls but this one caught us on the edge.  We watched it edge forward very slowly but there was no escaping it.

The squall passed leaving this gorgeous cloud formation. See the  row of puppies….

How many dogs do you see?
How many dogs do you see?

And, then we arrived. We had travelled 225nm (417kms or 340miles) in just under 30 hours, averaging 7.5knots/hour. After a very brief tidy up, we had a well-earned arrival beer and promptly went to bed for some catch up sleep!

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There’s nothing quite like the arrival beer!

We’re both hoping this might have been our last overnighter.

Until next time, take care, Sue and Mal xx

Waiting, waiting, waiting…

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Kool Kat in her slip at Palmas del Mar Marina

OK, our last post had us arriving at Palmas del Mar Marina on the east coast of Puerto Rico where we planned to hire a car to provision in preparation for The Bahamas.  All our cruising friends had told us that you need to be well-provisioned before visiting this incredible archipelago of islands. According to Wikipedia, it encompasses more than 470,000 sq kms!

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So much to see….

From what we understand there is very little agriculture so most foodstuffs are brought in, often by mail boat once a week and, when that food has gone, it’s gone until the next boat arrives. Because it is imported, food can also be expensive. Cruising guides have stressed that boaters need to be independent as there may be little or no services available. So, with all this advice in mind, we got busy!

Inventories were taken in the pantry, laundry and workshop! Use-by dates were checked and some stuff was tossed! We then set about trying to estimate how many meals x how many days we might need and exactly which boat spares we should buy, just in case!

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We stocked up at Walmart, Econo and West Marine. Oh, and Gwen and I stocked up at JC Penney’s and Marshall’s too as we didn’t have anything warm to wear in the cold Bahamas, LOL! New goods were added to the inventory and excess packaging was removed, not only minimising opportunities for little beasties to stowaway on our boat, but also to reduce the amount of rubbish we’d create in The Bahamas.

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I hope we’ve got enough……
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Definitely got enough tea bags!

In the midst of all this activity we celebrated Australia Day with the Inaugural Australia Day Film Festival on Kool Kat! Banyan (Alex and Dave) and Slow Waltz (Gwen and Guillaume) joined us to watch Aussie movies Red Dog and Gettin’ Square, which is only fair as we helped celebrate Canada Day last 1st July. We had a little Vegemite overload with Banyan and Slow Waltz bringing Vegemite popcorn yes, you read that correctly, Vegemite popcorn, which accompanied our Vegemite on salada-like biscuits and Vegemite and cheese scrolls. Thank goodness I also made Anzacs and mini banana muffins! I should add Mal showed a short Youtube video called ‘Straya’ which is quite a hoot!

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Yep, that’s the Vegemite popcorn in the green bowl! It was scrummy!
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They tasted better than they looked!

So, back to our planning for The Bahamas. Guillaume and Mal had been checking the weather watching for a good window where we could bypass the Dominican Republic and sail straight to either Great Inagua (bottom of The Bahamas) or The Turks and Caicos, a small country next to The Bahamas. The window needs to be 3-4 days of good sailing weather and there was one coming up which looked perfect.

Kool Kat leaving Puerto del Mar Marina. Thanks Banyan for the image.
Kool Kat leaving Puerto del Mar Marina. Thanks Banyan for the image.

We said our goodbyes to Alex and Dave and headed off with Slow Waltz to the southwest corner of Puerto Rico, where we would stop for the night before commencing our journey across the Mona Passage and into the great beyond! But before long Slow Waltz had trouble with the autohelm and an autohelm is not what you want to have out of action when doing a big passage, well, any passage really! So, we both pulled into Salinas on the south coast of Puerto Rico to see what was what. Luckily for us, our hot water service gave up  the ghost whilst there. We’re lucky because if this had happened elsewhere further into our trip we would have been having cold showers for a very long time! Everyone tells us that The Bahamas is a lot cooler than we’ve been used to in the Eastern Caribbean so we wanted a working hot water service! We were able to order a new one, along with some other items and, because Puerto Rico is a US territory, delivery was estimated as three days and not hellishly expensive.

We moved to Guilligan’s Island and then on to Puerto Real on the west coast to wait for the goods and so we would be ready to go as soon as the next window opens up. Our trip was beautiful with dolphins and interesting terrain to keep us occupied.

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Dolphins playing off Kool Kat’s bow
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They love to jump and surf the waves
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The stunning lighthouse, Faro Los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo, on southwest corner of Puerto Rico
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Sunrise over the sleepy port of Puerto Real
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Homes in the fishing village of Puerto Real

The goods arrived true to their word in three days and Mal successfully installed it. Slow Waltz have also got their autohelm working and we’re all ready to go!

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One new fully-installed hot water service!

So now, we’re waiting, waiting, waiting. The winds are very light and there doesn’t seem to be a big enough weather window for The Bahamas so, we think we will do one overnight hop across the Mona Passage to the Dominican Republic where, once again, we’ll be waiting, waiting, waiting.

Until next time, Sue and Mal xx

Postscript: We’ve woken this morning (Sunday 7th February) to 20-30kn winds so we’re off! Woohoo!