Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sailing the Nights Away

Entering Escondido anchorage Sunrise in Samana
Nov 2, 2007

Enee is back on it! Our first day sailing in nearly 6 months. We left Luperon around 5:30 pm (1730) and planned to clean up the anchor and then re-anchor outside the harbor once we made it through the narrow shallow part and make some dinner. Didn’t want to make that little passage in the dark but we also didn’t want to leave too early. Well plans changed. Pretty rolly (this will be a continuing theme) outside the harbor so we decided to just get on with it and go slow if we were ahead of schedule. Our plan was to motor sail the coast making about 55 miles to the east to a little fishing village/anchorage called Rio San Juan (19 38.6 70 05.3). The idea of the night sail comes from using the fact that the land will cool faster than the water. The cool air from the land will then flow to sea and moderate or even dominate the easterly trade winds. As it turns out we left with 4 or 5 other boats. Some were planning to steam on and make it all the way to Puerto Rico. We like making hops so had Rio San Juan in mind. The herding instinct is strong and as much as I wanted to hug the coast more, the rest of the ‘fleet’ was sailing fine 2 or 3 miles off shore. Ok. But after we rounded Cabo Macoris there was nothing to moderate the trades. We stuck with it for a couple of hours but the seas were rough and the wind was pretty east and building. Finally we said the heck with this and sailed due south to get nearer the land and the night lee. Boy did that work! Like flipping a switch. Much more comfortable.

Sailor Sue Says:
We were the first to raise anchor out of Luperon harbor. Boat parade master Dave wished us well from the hill at the harbor entrance and many other remaining boaters chimed in with their good byes and well wishes on vhf channel 68. For the last six months channel 68 had been our ‘coconut telegraph’ and THE way to keep in touch with all our boat neighbors. In a few miles we would be out of touch. For now anyway. Most folks are heading to Puerto Rico and beyond as well as we’ll be seeing them somewhere down the chain.

November 3

Due to leaving early and badly estimating the way point for Rio San Juan we arrived a little early. Ok we arrived at DARK! Had to tack up and back waiting for sunlight so we could safely make our way through the reef to the anchorage (19 39.6 70 05.3). No problem. Anchor down. Nothing broke. Nobody died. Why does making a little passage matter so much? We live on a boat no matter what. What’s the big deal if the boat is somewhere else? I don’t know the answer but I know that it changes everything. When we arrive at a new place and know that we did it ourselves it is just a great feeling. I’m not even a little bit tired of it!

We’ll sleep today. Oh yeah we will and then another night sail to Escondido. Another 55 mile night sail. We feel like third shifters! Sleep? Did I say sleep? There’s no sleep because there are rollers coming over the reef here rolling Enee back and forth about 45 degrees to each side. We are tired and our stomachs hurt from flexing them all the time when the boat rocks back and forth. Before dark we decide to move to the northern anchorage. The boats up there don’t seem to be rocking as much and it will make it easier to get away as well. So we haul up anchor and move. And it is just as rolly! Oh well, nothing for it now but to snooze and eat snacks and wait for our get away time which is around 7:30 pm.

Again we are using the night lee of the land to moderate the trades. It gets pretty rough around Cabo (Cape) Fancis Viejo but once we round that and turn south things calm down nicely for us. We motor sail until dawn as we approach the anchorage called Escondido.

This might be the most beautiful anchorage we’ve pulled into yet (that´s the picture at the top). It looks more like something you might think of in polynesia. High steep mountains all around the anchorage and only a couple of little beaches. No houses just lush vegetation. Very deep too! Hard to find a hunk of sand to drop our hook in. I’m not sure I ever did! I finally just kept letting out chain and hoped that weight of chain would keep us more or less put. No real wind here but, oh yeah our favorite, a constant chain of rollers coming in rocking Enee 24/7! We are so tired and we only grab sleep in short 1-2 hour hunks. We have another night to do too! No wonder they call this the ‘thorny passage’.

We are still traveling more or less with two other boats, Pegasus and Walkabout. A discussion ensues on the VHF as to whether we should stay where we are and wait for a window for going to Puerto Rico or go on to Samana and wait there. What is holding us up making the run to Puerto Rico is some projected north swells which apparently make the trip really miserable. Our current anchorage is rolly without a north swell and I’m for taking our chances on Samana which looks like it would offer good protection to the north. This is a funny one. Escondido is on the north shore of a long peninsula sticking out to the east. Samana is on the southern shore of that peninsula about 8 miles away. . .. over land but about 30 miles by sea! Reminds me of when we sailed about 600 miles to get to Detroit from Chicago . . . about a 150 mile car trip! Well, at least 30 miles is less than the 55 we have been doing the last two nights. We can try to sleep some more and then leave around midnight which we do.

Sailor Sue Says:
Ok. Let me define the word rolly. It was so rolly that ---
- things are falling off of shelves that you didn’t know you owned,
- when you open a can of chicken, turn around to get the pan to heat it in, you have to catch the can before it hits the galley deck,
- you remember how it felt when you were in sophomore biology class and had to throw up so bad that water kept coming into your mouth and it was all that you could do to keep it down,
- when you walked (crawled) down the campionway steps you felt like you were 2 years old again holding on for dear life,
- when you went to use the ‘head’ you had to time when to pull up and down (or down and up as it were) your trousers to the lurching boat,
- if Gracie weren’t already dead....well you get the picture.

November 4

And a beautiful night it was. Stars by the billions and only a couple of light sprinkles. I was hoping to be able to sail once we turned south around the end of the peninsula but no such luck. The ever dependable trade winds let us down but at least made the rounding easy.

Samana bay is huge and the along it’s north shore about 5 miles in there is a little cut up to the north west. This is the anchorage and boat basin for the town of Samana. Our fleet has grown and now has 5 boats! Now comes the inevitable visit by the Comandant of the “Navy”. He comes aboard each of the boats with 3 helpers (henchmen) and they all fill out some paperwork. They also take our despachio from Luperon for which we paid $20 and charged us 500 pesos for anchoring fee. Oh well, we expect as much and were told to. They also would be glad to accept any gift that we thought would be appropriate. We thought a small bottle of rum each was appropriate and had bought them in Luperon for just this occasion. Good news is we are free to go ashore and explore the town. We thought that since we had our passports stamped in Luperon with our next stop hopefully being Puerto Rico that we would be prevented from going ashore without going through the whole entrance procedures (~$120) again. I guess 500 pesos goes a long way in Samana! We are REALLY looking for a dinner and sit at a table that doesn’t keep sloshing our food around!

The consensus is that Wednesday night may be the night for a trip to Puerto Rico. It is about 140 miles from here or maybe 30 hours. So leave Wednesday night and get there Friday morning or early afternoon. First stop will be Mayaguez where lives the Customs House. . . and me out of rum!

It is so great to be on the move again. There is a state of mind that has to be re-achieved. To travel like this is to always be harboring some doubt. Is everything really all right? Is water actually coming in somewhere and I haven’t noticed it yet? Wait, did the engine just change its pitch? Why am I doing this anyway? What will the wind be like on the other side of the cape? Will I have enough fuel to make Puerto Rico? What if there is none available in Samana? You get the idea. This can get nerve wracking and especially when sleep is already hard to come by this kind of thinking certainly doesn’t help. I find that I am slowly getting back into my ‘cruiser mode’. Don’t worry. Especially don’t panic. Problems will be solved as they come up one at a time. Having a solid boat and dependable partner helps us both relax (well Sue is dependable...I’m just always early!) When I enter that mode there is nothing as special as sailing your own boat into unknown waters and new ports.

Sailor Sue Says:
It was a good decision to come to Samana. You never know about these kinds of decisions until you complete them. Last night’s sail was the shortest night sail of the 3 we just made.... the 3 sails we just made after NOT sailing for 6 months (not counting a wonderful day sail with Brian and Deborah on Lake Michigan). What - are we crazy? But I suppose at some level we do know what we’re doing out there while sailing. You hope for the best sail and prepare for the worst. Last night it was the best. The seas and wind were our very calm friends. Even the moon rose as if cat eyes were watching our fleet make its way around the eastern edge of the Dominican Republic. Why do we do this? You experience people, places, and things you would never even dream of existing in Des Plaines, Illinois. And now it’s time to go explore this town a bit. Already, from viewing the main street with the binoculars, I can tell that it’s not Luperon anymore Toto. So let’s go find out what’s cooking in Samana - literally!

More pictures when we can hook up our own laptop.


Cindy said...

I appreciated your entertaining description of the "rock n rolly" passage to Samana. Waiting to hear about your arrival in "the PR".

deborah said...

Now these are the stories we're talking about. Sail On.