Friday, April 11, 2014

April fool

We watched the weather reports for a week before. There was a perfect weather window approaching. Perfect for what you ask? Well to sail over to the Dominican Republic, our next destination. We have been in Provo long enough for our budget. That is to say we have done all that can be done for free...legally. The hop to the DR is 86 miles from Sand Cay, our last island before crossing the Hispaniola Plain, and over 200 miles from Turtle Cove Marina, where we are currently staying. We met another boat that was also making the crossing and decided that we would cross together for safety's sake. The wind was going to blow from the northeast which would allow us to sail right to Ocean World, our destination in the DR.  This isn't always possible.
It would be a 4 day sail. In preparation, I cooked a huge batch of 13-bean chicken chili. This would last us the entire trip. When you're on a multiple day crossing such as this one, it becomes very difficult to cook or even heat up anything, variety is not as important as getting a hearty meal quickly. 
A big pot of Bob's Red Mill, 13 bean Chicken Chili would be our sustenance for the passage.

Even the weather Guru on the radio was saying it was the perfect weather window...that is until the day after we left the dock.
The weather was gorgeous as we departed on this passage.
Sunset off of Sapodilla Bay,

Eva always blows the conch horn at sunset.
Shortly after disconnecting ourselves from shore power, and communication, something happened. Things changed, it was no longer the perfect window; it was now the highest, roughest waves of the year, and we didn't even know it. The first and second day did not offer a clue as to the pummeling we would have to endure on the back end of the crossing. On the 3rd day it was another matter.
The weather turned on us. That's the Dominican Republic in the distance.

Almost there!

We couldn't wait to step off!

It's fun defy gravity.
We had a stiff current working against us and the waves were on the nose, just stopping us in our tracks. The GPS would go from 2 miles per hour to 0.0 miles per hour, and then back to 2, over and over. Oh, this is going to be a long one, been there before. Water would wash over the deck like Abuela was hosing down the front porch. It would drizzle in from the hatch on top of our bed, and drip in from all the windows. Every few hours Poseidon would wallop me with 5 gallons of water at the helm, just in case I was falling asleep. My eyes would burn from the salt. It felt horrible as the water made it's way down the inside of my jacket, as my warm clothes turned wet. I know it's almost summer but I was freezing cold. Inside, everything was on the floor. Going to the bathroom was quite the challenge. Ever try pulling your pants down while using both hands to hold yourself in place? Not easy. Then I would open the lid and it would shut itself before I could sit. I had to figure out how accomplish all of these tasks simultaneously. I was really angry after a few attempts, but this was not something I could just accept to fail at, success was crucial.
Eva went goofy from the hard crossing!

The kids are really savvy and just try to sleep through it all, but 90 hours is a lot of sleep. Marie and I take turns at the wheel, but you can't really get any rest, even when you're not driving. It was just too rough. I try not to think about it and just let the hours melt off the clock. It will all come to pass, I tell myself, and occasionally Marie, as to give her strength to hold on. Yeah, the lows are lower.
It was a dark night. I could see a halo of light coming from Puerto Plata on the horizon. We must be within 30 miles of reaching land. The wind had built up. So loudly the wind baffled past my head that I couldn't hear all but the loudest of noise. The boat was now flying through the water at 7 to 8 knots. If a squall came up I would not be able to see it until it was too late. Another hour went by, and I decided to take in the sail and continue by motor, hoping this would be easier. As it turned out the sails had been helping to steady the boat. We now rolled from one extreme to the other. The sky was now slowly turning from night to day. In the distance, I could now see the actual lights from Puerto Plata. We were now closing in, maybe 12 miles from land. I could feel the weight lifting off my shoulders. Not too much longer now, 3 or 4 hours more. We had not seen our buddy boat in twelve hours. They were somewhere behind us. Mirador is fast under sail.
It was hard to distinguish the approach to Ocean World Marina. It wasn't until we were very close that we could discern the buoys that mark the entrance. The numerous attempts to hail the Marina on the radio had gone unanswered. Finally, the dock master instructed us over to the fuel dock to await immigration.
There was a 3 meter ocean swell that carried us down the rows of buoys. At the end of the channel was a jagged rocky shore, to the left, a few yards before the rocks, was the entrance to the Marina. At the right moment, you have to make a sharp left turn into the safety of marina. Hopefully the swell doesn't broach you or carry you onto the rocky shore.
Finally, we were inside the marina and tied to the fuel dock. As if the sea gods had one final joke in store for me, the dock was as high as my shoulders. How am I supposed climb onto this slick concrete dock? The dock jockey was a strong, fit, middle aged man with a voice like Shirley Temple. I kept looking around for a ventriloquist.  With a lot help from my new friend and a priceless Baby Huey moment, I was standing on dry land.
Here we are, all cleared in, and in our slip.

Eva, Hadrian and Arias enjoying the pool at Ocean World.
And so it was that the first April fools joke of the month was played on us by Poseidon. 

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