THE GOOD……………………………………………………………………

Six am the navy was at our boat with our despacho for Samana.  The one bad thing about cruising in the DR is that you need a despachoto go  from port to port.  Unlike the Bahamas where once you are in, you can go anywhere, the despacho is only good for certain ports.  The first likely spot to stop according to the “official” guidebook is Rio San Juan.  Next could be a short break at Escondido if you really needed it, and then Samana.  We get the  for Samana, knowing we will probably spend the night at Escondido, but should be ok as long as we don’t get off the boat.  The navy guy and the night watchman, who was Tristan and Tessa’s friend, helped us cast off. 

“How long have you been here?” the guard asked.

I had to think.  “Two months,” I replied, a little shocked.  A day short of two months exactly.  Time flies.

A wind from the west greeted us as we left the marina, heading east.  What a surprise!!!  This was the first time in a VERY long time we didn’t have wind on our nose.  It wasn’t a strong wind but it was enough that we could put the jib up and get some extra speed.   The seas were  forecast at 3 to 6 feet.  With the wind behind us, we were off to a great start, well over 7 knots.  We would be to Rio San Juan very quickly.  Traveling like this, you start to get a little greedy and start planning ahead.  About ten am, we were talking about going straight to Samana.  At noon, we were thinking of heading overnight to Punta Cana.  How about just going on to Puerto Rico????

The thing about this trip for us, it defies planning ahead.  We need to stay present moment.  We spent so much of our previous life living in the future, that it came as such a shock at first, that really living on a sailboat, you need to live present moment.  The weather, the travelling, the boat, all need your attention in the here/now.  I know that has been frustrating at times to people wanting to come visit us and need us to commit to a place/time.  It just isn’t possible all the time.  Today was no exception……………………………..

THE BAD………………………………………………………………………

The middle of the afternoon, we notice storm clouds building around us.  It was to be expected as it seems it has rained nearly everyday for the last 3 weeks.  We have been very lucky too.  With the radar, we have been able to travel around the storms very well.  Up til now, we hadn’t really driven through a rainstorm.  I was sitting in the helmseat next to Dan.  It was starting to get chilly.  We could see lightning in the clouds.

“Should we go offshore more?”  I asked.

“I can’t be sure which way the storms are moving,” he answered.

“Well, turn on the radar and find out.”

A pause.  “The radar isn’t working,” he said. 

I looked at him in surprise.  “What?  When did this happen?  Did you check it before we left?”

“It was working fine.  Now it shuts off after a minute or so.”

This is the start of the bad.  We have to sail at night at some point to reach Puerto Rico.  Not good!

“It’ll be fine.  You are usually the calm one.  Christopher Columbus didn’t have a radar when he came to America,” he reminded me.

“Christopher Columbus didn’t have to watch out for cargo ships!” I reminded him.

I guess it would be fine.  It would stay on for about a minute,  enough to give you a few complete rotations.  Dan turned it on to look at the storm.  The brief picture we got showed it all around us.  We were going to have to suck it up.  Dan put on his foul weather gear.  The rain came down, HARD!  I went inside and tried to keep watch from the windows inside the boat.  It was raining so hard I couldn’t see 3 feet past the end of the pontoons.  I slid open the door and looked at Dan getting pummeled.  “Do you need me out there?”  I was hoping for a no.

“No, stay inside.”

Yes!  “I’m going to turn on the navigation lights.”

“Don’t turn them on,” he warned.  “The battery is low.”


“For some reason the batteries aren’t recharging,”

Ok.  Strike two.  Fine.  I sit down in the salon and try to read my book in the dim light.  The kids are watching a movie.  The storm goes on.  A few waves hit hard against the side of the boat.  It’s getting late, and I hope the storm will be gone before dark.  It’s still raining when Dan opens the door.  “Carla, can you come out here.”

That tone.  I know that tone.  Nothing good comes from that tone.  I take my time putting on my foul weather gear.  Reluctantly I step outside into the cockpit.

MORE BAD…………………………………………………………………

“The autopilot isn’t working,”  he tells me.  “I have to hand steer.  Can you help?”

I haven’t really hand steered this boat very much in waves.  No time like the present to learn!  It is disorienting at first.  I am trying to watch the chartplotter, trying to watch the land off our starboard side, and trying to steer a compass course.  Darkness is falling.  Dan is my lookout.  After a while. I get the feel of the boat with the waves.  We are surfing, and at first it makes it hard to steer, but soon I get the feel of the boat, and everything is going fairly well.  It is very tiring though, not something I want to do for a long time.  The rain has let up, but it’s chilly. Our hopes of heading to Samana are gone.  The new plan is to head to Escondido.  Not too far ahead.  The good news is our sometimes challenging port engine is doing great.  Maybe we should keep going??

 MORE BAD………………………………………………………………..

A loud noise from the starboard engine.  I look back at the exhaust hose.  No water is coming out.  I pull back on the throttle, and yell out,  “The engine!”  just as Dan runs out to the cockpit.  No water coming out is not good!  Dan shuts the engine down.  The most logical guess at this point is that the seawater pump has failed.  That was turned into a 2 week, six thousand dollar bill on our port engine back at North Palm Beach. 

For those of you keeping score, so far we have radar problems, what seems like battery problems so we have limited lights, no autopilot and only one engine.  The good news is that the kids are having the time of their lives, listening to High School Musical on their IPOD.  The bad news is that I am not.  We can see the lights of fishing boats around us.  Without the radar, it is hard to see them.  I am very nervous.  Dan gets out the big spotlight and tries to spot them in the distance.  It is much harder now with the waves and only one engine, to keep the boat on course.  We have another hour or so to Escondido.  I can only look at the chartplotter and my compass reading.  It takes all I have and I am very nervous.  Dan is great, very calm.  He is doing a great job looking out for the web of fishing boats we seem to have wandered into.  The good news it that it should be fairly straightforward to head into Escondido.  The bad news is even without the rain, this is a moonless night.  We will be going into the anchorage blind. 

“Do you want to talk about what we will do if we lose the other engine?” Dan hesitantly asks.

“No!” I shout back.  I really can’t have anymore bad news. 

The Ugly ……………………………………………..

Dan pulls out a paperchart.  “According to these charts, there are some rocks before we get to Escondido. They aren’t showing up well on the chartplotter, but we have to watch for them.”

Great!  The “Official” guide we have, gives us the waypoint to the entrance of the bay at Escondido, and briefly mentions the rocks.  It also says to get to the anchorage before 5 o’clock. We are well past that.  I need that radar!  One major rock shows up on the chartplotter, but where are the others?  I am scared now, so scared that my knees are literally shaking!! 

I am going totally off the chartplotter now, as I can’t see anything off the side of the boat.  Dan is doing his best with the spotlight, but he can’t see anything either.  Finally we are past where the rocks should be, and I can head toward the waypoint to the entrance to Escondido.  The waves and the one engine are making it impossible to keep on course.  Dan wants me to hit the waypoint before we turn into the harbor. It’s so dark, we can’t see into the harbor.  We have to rely on the waypoints. I am doing the best I can, but with the waves and the wind, I can’t keep it.  I am beyond scared now.

We agree I am close enough to the waypoint and we just need to head in.  It should drop down to about 20 feet and we can anchor.  We have no idea where that will be though.  I am driving in here blind.  We can hear the surf and that is not a sound you want to hear.  I drive blindly around looking for a depth below 30 feet.  The mountains look soooo close!!  I am about out of my mind. 

“You are too close to this side!”  Dan yells.  I turn.  “I can hear the surf, go the other way.” he yells again.  What other way??

Finally it is about 20 feet and we agree to anchor here.  He takes over and I head to the front of the boat to drop the anchor.  In 20 feet I will have to let out a minimum of 100 feet of chain, (I would prefer 140 feet!).  Are we at least 100 feet from the side of the mountain?  I can’t tell.  Dan turns the boat to head into the wind, and suddenly the back of the boat seems too close to the wall.  Instinctively I can’t drop it here. “We’re too close to the wall.”  I can feel it.  Dan motors out more, and we decide to drop anchor in just under 30 feet of water.  I let out about 125 feet of chain, put on the bridle and let out the rest.  Dan backs down on it, but with no visuals it is hard to tell if we are really set or we are dragging.  We just have to go on faith.  We collapse exhausted into the salon, sleeping on the cushions so we can hear the anchor alarm if we drag.  Or the sound of us hitting the side of the mountain. 

When I woke up the next morning, I am hesitant to look out the window, scared to see how close we are to the mountain.

escondido.JPG                                escondido-3.JPG 

These are the rocks I couldn’t see last night!escondido6.JPG