03 April, 2013

Salimas Bay Dominican Republic

Malua is at 18:12.88N 70:32.75W in Salinas Bay on 27/03/2013
I left Boca Chico knowing that I had 65 nm to travel and I may have to
enter in the dark but from all reports and the charts It looked easy. I
sailed most of the way with the wind behind but as the sun set the wind
dropped. I had plotted a course all the way into the bay with a heads up
to look out for the unmarked fish farm.
Captain Bob at the Marine Rescue has always insisted that when you plot
your course you stand off any headland no matter if it is the one you
know very well, by about a mile, just in case something goes wrong. I
listened and have to this day stayed more than a mile off any headland
no matter the conditions. Well! I was motoring past this headland before
turning to starboard to get into its lee and enter the channel when bang
bang..... the fan belt on the engine broke. Stop the engine. No wind to
sail and a slight current but Malua was adrift BUT I was more than a
mile off the headland. It only took me 10 minutes to get the new belt
fit, it tested and to restart the engine and Malua was heading away from
the rocky shore of the headland. No danger, no stress but a lesson well
learnt. Stand off the shore no matter how well you know it or how deep
it is.
The channel was not well lit but there are a few marker buoys which the
radar picked up plus the chart was spot on. I moved cautiously in
towards what appeared to be a few anchored yachts and dropped the anchor
about a half mile off shore.
The next day I moved closer on shore and re-anchored before the Coast
Guard appeared in a small fishing boat. He came aboard and insisted in
looking around but did not even opening a cupboard. He took the
dispatchio then asked for some grog. I took him to the fridge and
offered him some beer in a plastic bottle which he refused. I indicated
I wanted to leave the next day at 8:00 and I required a new dispatchio.
I then took a long walk along the bay shore towards what I though was a
town. After more than two hours no it was a very large naval base with
dry dock and cadets on the parade ground. Not a great exertion.
There is essentially no village at Salinas only a run down hotel Salinas
which was having a party that night. The waterfront is clean and so are
the houses but it is poor. A few houses had shops with not much to
offer. The fisherman's coop seemed to be the place to be.
The next day I expected to see the Coast Guard appear on the dot of 8:00
by 9:00 still no sign so I got in the dinghy and went to the fisherman's
coop with my intentions on a piece of paper. Having names written down
helps with my poor pronunciation. I was informed I would have to go to
the Coast Guard base at the end of the peninsular and get the
dispatchio. Get a lift on the back of a motorbike with a young fellow.
Down the road we went, through the less than secure gates right into the
guard house of the Coast Guard. They seemed to know what I wanted but
had to wait for someone. The original fellow appeared, did not say a
word to me but one of the fellows started the torturous process of
filling out the form. He could hardly write and for him to copy from my
form to the new one was a challenge but as always I have the patience of
Job in these circumstances. Finally it was complete although I did say I
was stopping at Barahona but had no intentions. I just wanted to leave.
Which I did by 10:30.
I had plotted a course to round Capo Rojo some time during the night.
The total distance to my next destination was 220 nm a two nighter at
the current wind and speed.
That afternoon the wind came up and blew Malua along my intended route
which was a run. More importantly the swell came up because that part of
the coast is a lee shore for the swell to come along the south of Puerto
Rico and the DR. And did the swell build. It was the biggest swell I
have seen since the Souther Ocean! At sun set the wind was well over the
25 knot range, I had taken in two reefs and no headsail and was surfing
down the long swell reaching speeds well over 8 knots. The top speed
reached was 10.4 knots as I surfed down a wave in the near darkness. It
was exciting and a bit scary but Malua and I handled it well. I was hand
steering for more than five hours because I could not depend on the
auto-pilot handeling the conditions. My shoulders were sore when I
finally switched on the auto-pilot again. I can tell you I gave Capo
Rojo more than 5 miles distance as I rounded it just after 2 am.
The wind started to drop as did the swell so I was able to open up the
foresail and settle into a pleasant sail down wind. I also set the Watch
Commander for a few 27 minute sleeps. I took a few before the sun rose
and we moved down the coast by which time the wind had dropped off.
Now the challenge was to enter the Baie des Cayes on my way to Ille a
Vache. I knew I would not make it by sun set so I set myself an
anchorage some way along the island NW coast hopefully out of the swell.
I had been warned about the many fishing nets in that area so as I
reached the shallower water I slowed Malua down to about 2 knots put on
all the forward lights and hoped I would be able to see the plastic
bottles of the buoys before I hit one. With a bit of luck and good
vigilance I dropped the anchor on the NW corner of the island well into
the large bay but not far enough in to get out of the swell. Fortunately
the wind was against the swell so Malua sat quite calmly as I had a
great meal and a god sleep.
A magical moment on Malua

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