Let the Sailing Begin!
And So it Begins….. Our Second Season as Live Aboard Cruisers
Now that hurricane season is safely behind us we are on the move for our second cruising season as live aboard sailors. As most of you know we spent the hurricane season tucked away in Luperon Harbor on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. In our first cruising season we made it from Boston to the Bahamas; where we spent five months island hopping before heading out to the Dominican Republic. We thought Luperon would be just a stop over, but after discovering motorcycles, and the magic of the country we decided to stay and make it our hurricane season home.
That was last season though, and we have now officially began our 2018-2019 cursing season as live aboard sailors. We have been checking the weather for a few weeks now, looking for a good window to begin The Thorny Path down the north east coast of the DR and across to the Leeward Islands. We finally found our window and were able to depart from Luperon around 6:00 in the evening mid week. We had a pretty decent window (approximately 48 hours) and were hoping to make a straight shot for Escondido about 100 miles from Luperon.
My first time out on the boat since April 20th, was a struggle. I knew that there was a good chance that I would get sea sick since it had been about 7 months since I had been out on the open seas. Far from calm, we motored out of the bay in wind blowing 10-15 knots on the nose and 2-3 foot waves breaking from the north east. Not ideal by any means, but Matt kept assuring me that it would be ok, and that we had been through much worse than this before. I agreed, it wasn’t the worst we had ever experienced, but it was by no means comfortable. About 30 minutes into the journey, after putting all the dock lines and fenders away, I sat down on the floor of the cockpit with Roxy so that we could comfort each other; she was not so sure about this first rendezvous either. I took a dramamine shortly after casting off from the dock, but that didn’t seem to cure the sickness.
While Roxy and I cuddled on the cockpit floor, Matt was at the helm navigating and raising sails to try to make the ride more comfortable. By 10:00 pm we had a full main sail and jib out and we were motor sailing between 5 and 6 knots, which is rather speedy for our boat. We motor sailed through the night, reaching maximum speeds of up to 8 knots due to Matt’s attention to the sails and his efforts to trim them ‘just right’ to get the most power out of the wind. That is something we are really working on this sailing season, actually being better sailors and not just motoring all the time.
Somewhere between 5 or 6 am we were rounding the horn at Cabo Frances Vejo. This was perfect timing, as according to Bruce Van Sant; author of Passages South: The Thornless Guide to Windward, our bible for this journey to the Virgin Islands, you want to be around this point by 8am. Safely around this point we now had our sights set on Escondido. With another 30 miles to go we began to start to think about whether or not we would continue on to Samana or anchor in Escondido and head to Samana in the morning. Checking our time and distance remaining to get to Samana we had no choice but to anchor at El Valle in Escondido.
Our First Anchorage; El Valle ~Escondido
We put in the coordinates for the El Valle anchorage and motored in around 2:00pm. We were all ready to drop anchor when Matt pulled the windlass remote from the compartment only to find that ‘down’ worked fine, but the ‘up’ button was non-functioning (more details on this tomorrow). This threw a wench in our plans, because now we had the added pressure of making sure the anchor set the first time we tried. As always goes with boating something breaks or needs to be fixed, and of course our first attempt at anchoring was not successful. The anchor didn’t grab and we were backing down toward shore, so Matt had to pull up the 150 ft of chain by hand so that we could try to reset it again, this time with me driving and him setting. It took a bit better this time than it did the first time so we decided it was good enough for now. We kept a very close eye on it for three hours and all we did was spin around in circles. We really didn’t go anywhere we just floated and spun as the wind turned us.
It turned out to be a beautiful anchorage with 18ft depth practically to the beach, and the mountains surrounding were gorgeous. What wasn’t so fabulous was the swell. Even being pretty far from the shore, we were rocking and rolling all afternoon, all night and into the next morning. As always I found myself waking up every few hours to check our surroundings because there is always that fear of dragging anchor. Luckily we didn’t, we kept floating in circles and I was able to get some good rest just as the sun was coming up.
We had originally planned to just hang out here until the next weather window opened, but I couldn’t handle three more days in the rocky and rolly anchorage. So we decided the next night we would leave late into the night with the plan of an early arrival to Samana the next morning, where we would check into the Puerto Bahia Marina and spend a few nights before finding the next window to head East across the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico.