Hispaniola- There are Possibilities

Date: 30 May 2018

Location: Anchored Isla Saona, Dominican Republic LAT 18° 11.574 LON 068° 47.083

Weather: Partly Cloudy, Mid 80’s, Wind SSE 15 – 20 Knots

After relatively pleasant nighttime motor sail along the coast, we arrived in the Bay of Jacmel mid-morning where we anchored in the NE corner behind the remnants of what was once a break wall. The goal was to try and get out of the prevailing SE swell. The Bay is open to the SE so although the small reef and the break wall helped with the waves, the swell rolled around the rocks and generally made for a poor anchorage. While we waited for The Admiral’s return, the crew explored the town a little which turned out to be a nice surprise. It was a far cry from Les Cayes. There were a couple of seaside hotels and shops along the cobblestone streets and at least a feel that the locals had a little pride in their town. The place generally seemed to be on the upswing. The walkway along the shoreline of the Harbour District was formed with mosaic artwork and the area was lined with a few shops and a small park. At least there was the sense of trying to develop a tourist trade.

While probably not totally necessary, Captain Brian decided to take on some fuel while we were anchored here. He lives by the old adage from his days piloting airplanes: “There are few thing more useless than Air in the Gas Tanks” (similarly – Runway Behind you and Altitude above You). He worked with some locals to ferry out 30 gallons at a time in Jerry cans as there was not a marina or dock other than the Commercial Wharf for the cargo ship that was working hard to offload concrete. It took the better part of the day but it seemed the best option as Santo Domingo would be the next good opportunity for diesel. The Captain made contact with the Directors of Hands and Feet Ministries (Randy and Denise) that he heard about in Ile a Vache to get some local input on the best way to get The Admiral from the Port Au Prince airport to Jacmel. The choices were limited to a local bus/van system which logistically would have been a challenge to navigate with transfers and didn’t go directly to the airport. The local bus/van system is called a “Tap-Tap” which is basically a brightly painted pickup truck with a roof and open truck bed with bench seats holding as many people as could be stuffed in. The other option was hiring a private Taxi for the round trip. The Taxi Option was selected and off The Captain went.

About all I heard from the Captain is that Port Au Prince needs to be bulldozed down and they need to start over. The downtown section and the area immediately around the airport were decent but the outlining areas approaching the city were described as “Sad”. The poverty, trash and squalor were overwhelming and frankly hard to describe. The Admiral’s flight made it in and the return taxi ride back to Jacmel across the island took them over the mountains and by farm land which was a relief from the pitiful conditions of Port Au Prince. Back in Jacmel, The Captain had made reservations for a room at Colin’s Hotel, enjoying a 3rd floor waterfront view, to give The Admiral a chance to relax after a day of traveling. During the early evening they sat out on the balcony with a drink and enjoyed watching a High School Marching Band and Dance Ensemble practicing on the boardwalk for an upcoming competition. The Captain and Admiral finished up the evening by going out to Pizzeria Jacmel (run by a couple from NY). Whereas “I” got to stay at anchor rocking and rolling around for yet another night – sometimes life on the Sea is just not fair. The next morning my crew met up with Randy and Denise for church and visited the Mission and orphanage. They enjoyed their afternoon and a tour of the facility. The Captain was impressed with the aquaponic and hydroponic vegetable gardens they had in operation. They had the kids helping a caretaker to maintain the systems and learning skills and responsibilities. The Director and Denise joined my Crew for dinner at their local favorite “Café Koze” before saying their farewells.

Able Seaman Jared walked the plank at Jacmel returning to Canada to deal with some personal issues as the Admiral, Captain and First Mate Joe departed for the short day sail crossing into the offshore waters of the Dominican Republic. We stopped for a night at Bahia de Las Aguilas, a National Park and a very picturesque “just off the beach anchorage”. It was a short stop as we continued on to Isla Beata, DR early the next morning. First Mate Joe showed off his sailing skills taking me into the Bay on the NW side of the Island. During the day, my Mainsail developed a little issue; the leech line was working out of a small tear in the sail and trailed loose. It ended up wrapping around the sail and the mast as it was furled in at the end of the day. On the downside, this prevented the mainsail from fully deploying. However on the upside, this gave The Admiral the opportunity to go up the Mast to effect repairs – something she always enjoys. Out came the Bosons’ Chair and up the Mast she went. The light 15 knot breeze and easy swell made the trip aloft more enjoyable as evidenced by her whooping and hollering (or was it screaming and yelling from fear – I’m not exactly Pawsitive about that) on the way up the mast. Whatever it was, she bravely went up with riggers knife clinched in her teeth and cut away the offending leech line freeing up the sail. The task was successfully completed.

Isla Beata is a remote fishing village used by the locals for a several months out of the year and Captain Brian decided to anchor there for the night before rounding the southernmost Cape of Hispaniola. The area is known for its turbulent waters as the wind accelerates around the Point and the waves and swell from opposing directions meet together. Its reputation didn’t disappoint as the winds were forecast to build to the mid 20’s and the seas to the 8 to 10 foot range. One strategy to transit the point is to sail south about 20 miles offshore to “go around” the area. The other is to work thru the Pass between the Island and the Mainland and “get thru the area” as quickly as possible. Since our ultimate plan was to work NE toward Santo Domingo, the Captain decided to get a daybreak start before the wind had a chance to build. Fortunately that plan worked out and we were able to quickly turn the corner and start heading NNE on a better tack. We still had to motor sail and we still got to enjoy a little “washing machine” action from the waves but at least we soon had a decent 45 degree angle into the wind. Our original destination for the day was Las Salinas but “Otto” (my Auto Pilot) decided to take some time off to give Captain Brian a chance to practice his hand steering skills for a several hours. To make the ride a little more comfortable and to make port before dark, The Captain decided to fall off a few degrees, gain some speed and head to Barahona on the western side of the bay.

The crew enjoyed a few days tucked up in a small protected cove in Barahona. As soon as my anchor was down we saw “Fernando” rowing out in his wooden skiff to welcome us along with bringing the Customs, Immigration, Marine Police, and the Health Officials with him. The procedure was completed the Dominican Way with beer for the officials and a small tip for their service. The open air restaurant at the Marina Club Nautica provided a fine meal of Fish, Rice & Beans and Plantains that evening. Captain was hankering for some ice cream so George, the Marina Manger, sent a worker into town on his motorbike to retrieve a gallon that was enjoyed by all. The following day The Admiral and First Mate Joe made a quick trip into town for a few fresh veggies while Captain Brian spent the morning making repairs to Otto. The issue was traced to leaking hydraulic seals on the cylinder which required a trip to a machine shop so the new seals he found would fit in the raceway. Later that morning we weighed anchor and moved out into the outer bay allowing a massive coal tanker to maneuver into the anchorage so it could off load its cargo for the local power plant. The ship pretty much filled up the cove but left enough space for me to come back in. My crew was a able to meet some of the Crew on the Cargo ship and enjoyed a drink with them at the Marina Bar while getting a view from the working man’s world of living on a Cargo Ship – all is not Fun and Rum in their world.

Departing Barahona, we took a deep tack across the bay trying to work the wind angle towards Las Salinas with the wind and waves fighting me. We were able to make headway the first part of the day but had to crank the motor up to make progress during the afternoon to arrive to Salinas by nightfall. In the anchorage, we caught up with our friends Steve, Ashley and their dog on S/V Belle Vista, the couple we had met in Ile a Vache. Sea Tigger provided a lift to a nearby resort dinghy dock and my crew and their friends got a little walk in before having supper on the upstairs verandah of a local restaurant. From their vantage point they could overlook the large bay and see my working Commercial Cousins moored off the docks off to the east under the cranes picking away at the cargo onboard. During the walk back along the street to Sea Tigger they enjoyed the towns Latin influence with loud party music that included lots of nightlife along the many bars. A little rain shower pushed them on their way but did little to dampen the beat of drums. The next morning, The Captain and 1st Mate Joe took a rollicking ride on Sea Tigger to secure our Despacho from the Armanda clearing us to the next port. The outpost was located on the beach at the entrance to the Bay. They had to make a beach landing as there was no dock. Seems a little odd that the local Coast Guard would be without a dock or a boat – however what they did have was their rubber stamps and plenty of forms to complete. It was a short visit in Las Salinas as we departed that same evening for a night crossing to the Santo Domingo area. We arrived early morning after sailing past the sprawling high-rise buildings that is Santo Domingo. The skyscrapers seemed to extend forever along the coast. The last 4 hours of the trip we crossed paths and weaved our way thru an ocean dance floor full of Tankers and Cargo ships headed into port. My AIS alarm definitely got a workout. Our destination was the smaller town of Boca Chica east of the big city where the resorts, a protected bay and the small vessel marinas are located.

We picked up a mooring just off the docks of Marina ZarPar as the slips in the marina itself were too shallow for my keel. Turns out the area around the mooring was also a little shallow as we drifted on a sand bank during the night. With the help of Sea Tiger pushing, we worked our way off in the morning and relocated to a different mooring ball. That evening, my crew had a nice dinner at one of the local resorts as a sendoff for 1st Mate Joe for his departure back to the states the next day. We certainly enjoyed having him on board and appreciated all of his assistance and hard work. We hope he will join our crew again somewhere downstream. While in a secure port, a local sail loft was contacted to make repairs to the mainsail and leech line. The wind was up a little but she had to come down as repairs could not be made in place. The Admiral got to enjoy another quick trip up my mast to the middle spreader to cut away a small piece of the leech line preventing the sail from sliding down the mast and unhooking. She (the sail – not The Admiral) was folded up and dropped in Sea Tigger for the trip to the dock. Later in the day The Admiral headed into ‘Ole, a local grocery store, to see what they had to offer. Transportation was provide by the Marina Staff with a taxi ride back to the docks. We never got a clear answer on which chore was enjoyed the most – grocery shopping or trip up the mast. I truly believe it was the “E Ticket” ride up the stick. S/V Belle Vista sailed into the Marina later in the day and plans were made over a delicious homemade Pasta dinner to take a land excursion into Santo Domingo and checkout the surrounding area by car. Bags got packed and off they went to explore. They found a small local hotel (basic but Admiral Approved) in the city center where they dropped off the bags and headed off to “3 Eyes National Park”, located in the middle of the busy city, to check out its caves, lakes and stalactites. Then they headed to the walled “Old Colonial” section of town to wander the cobblestone streets, have lunch at an outside café on the square, watch the pigeons attack the tourists and visit the Cathedral (amazing paintings, artwork and architecture) where it’s said Cristobal Colon (a.k.a. – Christopher Columbus) is interred. Interesting man – lots of misinformation out there on his voyages and life. (suggest Wikipedia – Christopher Columbus for details). The adventure in the Old Town was finished of at the Chocolate Factory and the “Kah-Kow experience“ http://www.cacatour.com . My crew got a lesson in “how its made” and then they got to make their own chocolate. Not sure but I think that was The Captains favorite stop of the day.

The evening found them meeting up with and some of Ashley’s business friends that she worked with in Canada for dinner downtown outside a three story mall. The restaurant is call “SBG” – not sure what that stands for but it was fancy and formal. They reported that the meal was awesome. There was an impressive glass enclosed wine cellar and the bar was stocked to show off. On the way back to the hotel The Captain convinced the group to stop off at Baskin Robins for some frozen delight.

The following day the crew was off to the mountains for a swim in a waterfall. The trip was slightly delayed with a flat tire and a roadside restaurant where they enjoyed a rib bar-b-que. After the delay, they eventually found the sign pointing them up the dirt and gravel road which lead to an iron gate and some private property. It seemed the entrepreneurial spirit is alive in the Mountains of the DR. $4 got them in and the car looked after while they hiked about ½ mile down a path and thru the woods to the Falls. Captain Brian And Captain Steve ventured out into the pool for a swim while the Admirals took some pics and enjoyed the refreshing mist from shore. Soon they headed back to the Marina making a quick stop at “Ole” to grab a few things.

Sunday was a down day. My crew took advantage of it to get the scuba tanks filled, take me in to the fuel dock to get my tanks filled and take a walk to the Coast Guard Station to get our Despatcho for the next port. The Captain came back a little frustrated when despite completing all the forms (in triplicate) they would not give him the formal Despatcho until early Tuesday morning when we actually left the docks. No big deal but it put us leaving a few hours later than preferred. We were off to Isla Catalina where we arrived late afternoon and the crew decided to stay on board and enjoy some Pawsitive Rum Punch as evening was approaching . Early the next morning we headed off to Isla Saona and were able to finally SAIL THE ENTIRE WAY WITHOUT THE ENGINE. The Island was almost due South and made for a great beam reach. Upon arrival, the anchor went down and we found ourselves all alone right off a fantastic Palm Tree lined, white sand beach and settled in for the evening. By 1030 the next morning we were no longer alone. It was the “Invasion of the Party Cats”. No less than 30 large catamarans along with every type of motor boat imaginable came sailing in from the mainland all packed to the brim with tourists intent on eating, drinking and getting maximum sun exposure. The beach party lasted the day but by 1600, once again, we were alone. We spent a few days there enjoying the sites and sounds. Our next stop is Puerto Rico and US soil again.

Joyce and Brian Clark

S/V Pawsitive Latitude


+1 239 898 7646

Facebook – The Saga of S/V Pawsitive Latitude

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