South Coast, Dominican Republic
05 June 2011 | Boca Chica, DR
Chris and Linda at Las Dunas National Park in Las Salinas, Dominican Republic.
Due to motoring much more than expected in the Windward Passage, and not wanting to take on fuel in Haiti, we accepted the need to sail at least some of the way to our next fueling port in Salinas. We raised the sails soon after leaving Port Morgan, and were doing well, despite having to fall off every time we spotted another group of soda bottles indicating a lobster pot on the bottom. We were almost to the shelf where it would be too deep for the fishermen, when we spotted one last pot marker. It looked like we were going to make it without falling off: alas, we had too much leeway. Although the bow went past, we were push sideways just into the marker, which then snagged on the rudder. I'm not sure how much one of the traps weighs, but it works well as a sea anchor. Freeing ourselves involved dropping the dinghy astern, climbing in, and then cutting the line between the offending float and the pot. One of the buoys had slipped past when I was working the rudder trying to get loose, so the fisherman should be able to find the pot, but won't have a section of floating line going to the second float, which is now one of the thousands of floats washed up on a beach somewhere.
After getting moving again, we beat into the wind for about another 36 hours to make Isla Beata. This would have been a less than 24 hour motorsail, if we didn't have to zig-zag back and forth. We arrived on Saturday morning and got the anchor to set and hold well at the third location we selected, in front of the Commandancia. We were soon visited by the local Marina De Guerra (Coast Guard) as expected, and they were satisfied with our Despacho and left us alone. We ate, slept, and enjoyed relaxing by this sandy island, inhabited only by the fishermen living in shacks lining the beach, and the Coast Guard detachment. We did have several fishermen come by to ask for engine oil, treatment for an ear blockage, and to trade lobster for booze.
Sunday we left for Las Salinas, sailing as soon as we made it around Isla Beata. We spent the afternoon beating to windward. As the winds picked up, we partially furled the jib and were making little progress. When the night lee failed to materialize and instead the winds went over 20 knots, we dropped the sails and pointed the bow towards Las Calederas bay with the engine punching us through the waves. The lee of the cape, and finally in the bay, things were much calmer and we arrived off the Las Salinas marina and anchored in 15 feet of water on Monday morning. After clearing with the Coast Guard, we checked out the Las Salinas marina/restaurant/hotel. A nice place with a proprietor who speaks English! Jorge arranged for us to get diesel from his tank out at the street, as apparently he doesn't have fuel down at the docks. I carried 6 jugs of diesel out to the boat and added them to our tank, then got to work on our genset.
The genset had been acting up. I wasn't sure if it was because the fuel level was lower than it wanted, or that last little bit of fuel had some grunge in it from sloshing around in the high winds the previous night. I changed the filters and bled everything, and it seemed to come back up (yeah!). It subsequently didn't do too well, refusing to start up after being underway without another bleeding. Finally in Ponce, Puerto Rico, I think I got everything bled, cleaned, and tighted to remove whatever air leak was happening and it appears to be working well again (yeah! Knock on wood).
Las Salinas: a very nice, small, Dominican town, exactly like we had envisioned from the guide. We shopped for produce at an open air Colmado, ate lunch at a small restaurant for $10, had beers at another open air bar/shop for a few dollars (pictures of all this on Facebook!), walked the salt pans, and toured the Dunes National Park. Since we also did some boat chores and sat out a rainy day on the boat, five days went back in a flash. The Commandante reprimanded us when we went in for our despacho as we had told him we'd stay three days, but he was quickly disarmed by Linda's smile and broken Spanish telling him how pretty his town is. He finally produced our original despacho that his sailors had been looking for, and they then generated our next despacho for Boca Chica.
We motorsailed to Boca Chica overnight through a light rain, with the lights of Santo Domingo just off our port side. After being guided in by Raul to ensure we missed the shallow spots, we picked up the first mooring ball and stripped off our foul weather gear. Evidently Raul phoned the Coast Guard, and because we had already cleared in to the country (back in Puerto Plata), they didn't come visit. After paying for 4 nights on the mooring and putting a deposit on the restroom/shower key, we were settled into Boca Chica and ready to explore this suburb, as well as the capital of Santo Domingo.