March 6- 8, 2021
It’s my Birthday, a great day to start our longest passage of the trip 315 miles South and East to Samana Bay. They call it the thorny path, because the wind is always blowing from exactly that direction, and seems to pick up speed between the Bahama Banks and the mountains of the Dominican Republic. Well, it must be my birthday, because I was granted a day of very light wind out of the North East. That worked for a day of motor sailing. Normally, we hate motor sailing because: the motor makes noise, the motor uses diesel, and using wind alone to move a giant heavy boat is just wicked cool. However, motor sailing is infinitely preferable to bashing upwind into big waves in big wind. Also, we last filled up our diesel tanks hundreds and hundreds of miles ago in Cape Canaveral. That was December 7 or 8th, just about exactly 3 months ago. We are headed to a marina with a very nice fuel dock. Let’s live it up and motor!
We went mostly south, to pick up a slightly favorable current along the coast of Haiti, and we were going fast enough that we saw the mountains of Haiti rising above a misty horizon well before sunset. I should mention, we are on our own again, because the rest of the Eastbound Renegades were going to Luperon to check in, and decided they had enough of a weather window to wait another day for the sea state to settle down. Anyway, it was a relaxing, easy motor-sail. We did 3 hour watches overnight, and slept pretty well in the off watch. The one flaw in the plan is the time zone changed as we entered DR waters. My stupid iphone was supposed to wake me at 1am, but at 12:15, we crossed over, and the alarm went off, saying that it’s 1:15 – and I was 15 minutes late for my shift. I was already awake and on deck by the time I figured what was up. Birthday officially over!
In the early afternoon of the 7th, the wind clocked around right on the nose, so we had to drop the sails. That was fine, but the wind got stronger, raising some big sharp waves against the current, slowing use down and causing everything in the forepeak to levitate with each wave. It was great to have the distraction of looking for and seeing the Amanera Resort, where my sister will be married there in less than a month! That is the whole reason we are on this thorny path. Looking at it from 2-3 miles out through the binoculars we could make out the beach, the main building, and the casitas sprinkled across the cliff top. Very cool!
By sunset, we’d both had enough of the bouncy conditions. We were only about 10 miles from going around the east end of the DR, and there was a tiny little cove on our chart that looked like it would be protected from the east wind. We went in at around 9PM, creeping in to the dark valley (El Valle, it’s called) with high cliffs on either side, and a few bright lights on the beach. The dark ruins any hope of depth perception, so we motored and motored, for like 5 miles, where it looked like we’d be on the beach any second. We dropped the hook in 25 ft of water, just 6 or 700 feet off the beach with it’s LOUD breakers. I think I need to embrace my true nature as the ultimate worrier. Anyway, it was nice and protected in there, and we slept like stones from 10pm til sunrise. Like a gopher, I popped my head out of the companion way as soon as it was light. Turns out my depth perception in the dark is great! The breakers were right there! I rousted Jeff right out of bed, and we resumed our passage feeling well rested.
Going around the east end was great – high cliffs topped with jungle, very glad we did this in the daylight. Birds in the sky, and a pair of whales swimming by. As we turned into Samana Bay, there were 3 or 4 local skiffs out, driving around and waving to each other. I got a quick look at another whale, this one showing it’s fluke and blowing before disappearing. As we started to navigate the last 5 miles of channel to the marina, I also saw a large dolphin. It is such a contrast to the Bahamas here. The lush jungle and high mountains fading in the mist. The Bahamas were totally flat and dry, and the real beauty was almost entirely relegated to below the waterline.