|Creeping out of Marina Zar Par before dawn with our Despacho|
I say mixed feelings because even though I was excited about getting to Puerto Rico, I was equally anxious about crossing the Mona. But more than that… I was feeling increasingly anxious about how the ordeal of obtaining our Despacho would play out…
Wishing to “take the bull by the horns” and clear up any doubt about it, we went to see Victor on Saturday morning. The weather was still looking like we MIGHT be able to leave the southern Dominican Republic coast and sail up to Samana where we could maybe take that Coffee Plantation tour we missed out on.
|Rounding the nearly unseen reef into bouncy waves|
Boca Chica is one of the ports that I have feared. There are tales of threats and strong-arm tactics being used against Cruisers littering the Internet and I wanted to avoid being another one of them. All during our stay here, we have tried to be the “Model Cruiser”. We have given gifts, we’ve had friendly conversations and we’ve done our level best to spend an appropriate amount of money here so as not to provoke unpleasantness upon departure.
|Making a run for the sunrise|
The way I see it, the country can charge us whatever they wish. We can then choose to either pay it… or skip on to the next country down the road. But my wish is that they would just tell me what the fee is already! Just spit it out instead of putting us through the veiled-threat-process… the excuses (You wish to leave after business hours, no es possible… but for a small gift…maybe), the requests (If you could just give me say maybe ten bucks for gas, I could bring your Despacho to you), the vagaries (No. It is not possible to get your Despacho the day before… unless you maybe give me 500 pesos, then you can have it today). It is exhausting to contemplate just how much we’re going to be jerked around… and you know they talk.
|Hugging the coast for smoother water|
Just as we were about to climb into the dinghy to go ashore and meet the Port Captain, here comes Victor… and not one, but TWO Officials! My guess is that they wanted to inspect our boat. Supposedly they aren’t required to if you’re just going from port to port within the Dominican Republic. My guess is that maybe they suspected us of going rogue and running for Puerto Rico, instead of continuing on to Samana as stated.
I showed the gentleman that we had no undeclared passengers hiding in the closet down below and when we came back into the cockpit where the Captain was holding my Despacho… he asked Victor to ask me why the Gato was not mentioned on my papers!!! WHAT??? I turned to the man and started to babble “Nobody said anything about the cat before…” They all grinned and Victor told me the Captain was just kidding… That’s just what I need. A guy who could clap me in irons for eternity that likes to make jokes. Consider my last nerve officially SNAPPED!
|Looking for the entrance to the Cumayasa River|
Before dawn we were up doing the last few things to get ready. As Bruce loosed our lines from the mooring ball that had been our home for almost three weeks, I breathed a calming breath. My knees were feeling a little weak as I contemplated the next few days. Our weather was unknown and when I last checked, it was looking less and less likely that we would be able to transit the Mona before next weekend.
Our conversation with Victor had given us the information we needed to leave Marina Zar Par. He said that if the weather was not good, we could anchor at any of the stops along the way, even if they weren’t on our Despacho, and they could not lawfully make us leave before weather conditions improved.
So before the sun came up we were motoring out of the calm port and into a head on swell that, although wasn’t huge… was enough to make Jezabelle immediately sick as we worked to get our mainsail up to smooth the ride. It was touch-and-go there for a few minutes as we divided our attention between raising the sail and avoiding sliding cat puke… Poor girl. She had enjoyed our inertia and has lost her sea legs once again.
The seas were not bad during the morning. We set our mainsail and were off the wind enough that we could punch through the four foot waves comfortably. Every now and then we would get a monster that would slow us down a bit, but it was certainly not the worst ride we’ve experienced. The wind blew our hesitation away at a comfortable 12-15 knots and the rising sun glittered on the waves. We shook off the roots that we had grown and began to feel free again!
As we had feared, deteriorating weather conditions in the Mona now pushed our departure from Isla Saona to at least Saturday. As the morning calm dissipated and wind and waves increased, we tacked out into deeper water to see if the waves were smaller without the influence of the land. As we moved into the greater depths, the wave action was less “confused” but the orderly progression of big swells seemed to get bigger and our speed decreased.
Considering our current tacking angle was taking us further out as the wind moved more to the south, we decided to tack back towards shore and see how the boat did on the other tack for a while. We tacked over and found much to our surprise, that the ride was smoother and our speed increased. Our VMG was not quite as good as we were still heading way off our mark, but we would see how it went as we neared the shore…
|We found the mouth of the river right where it was supposed to be...|
Although our Despacho said we were going to Samana… the sea state was actually providing us with a valid reason to duck into the Cumayasa River and wait for improvement. According to Rigo, our harbormaster from Marina Zar Par, these minor Marina Guardia posts do not have the “power” to give an international Despacho, and some can’t even give you one to Samana, which would require us to stop in at La Romana or Casa de Campo. Not wishing to do so… we crossed our fingers and hoped they wouldn’t take our Despacho from us…
|The Guardia Post is the "U" shaped building on the left|
While heading out we encountered a crossing situation with a slow-moving ship… but they passed behind us and never amounted to anything more than entertainment for a short time. Soon, the waves and winds began to build again prompting us to tack back toward land. It would be our last tack of the day as the wind lifted us more and more as it bent along the landmass bringing us to within 5 degrees of our destination.
We began to look for the mouth of the Cumayasa River along the shore. Bruce combed the rocky ledges with the binoculars looking for any spot that didn’t seem to have waves crashing. Eventually he found it exactly where it was supposed to be.
As we approached, the sea state once again became bouncy and confused. The waves weren’t big, but they were a mess. We discussed strategy for getting the mainsail down and dashing through the entrance of the river which could be dicey with following seas,… We decided to drop the main while still outside the river so that we would have control under power in case we encountered shoaling or underwater obstacles.
My knees began to give an occasional quiver as I contemplated my part in this… I would have to guide the boat into the opening with rocky cliffs on either side of us. A swift-moving current could take us onto the rocks… I had to be completely focused. No time for quivering knees!
Bruce climbed the mast to secure the main inside the sail-pack while the boat pitched and rolled. I did my best to keep it lined up with the approaching waves, but they were, like I said… a MESS! With his shout that the main was down, I timed our turn to a brief flat spot and came about, increasing engine RPMs to get us up to speed with the waves.
|The eastern bank looks less imposing in the picture...|
|Into calmer waters searching for the Marina Guardia|
|Marina Guardia Post and the fishing boat that came to get me|
I dashed down below for the papers and, leaving Bruce with his jaw dropped, I was helped off of our deck and into the bounding fishing boat, practically climbing down on the backs of the fishermen… They whisked me away to shore as Bruce tried to tell me something I could not hear… his words were blown away on the wind and the overpowering sound of the outboard motor.
I made the effort to communicate with my fishermen with some success during the short ride to a high concrete dock. I pointed to my bare feet and told them I had no zapatos… their smiles said it didn’t matter.
|Up the concrete steps past the questionable stream of water...|
Inside my head I marveled at my ability to stifle the person I once was as I tiptoed barefoot through a stream of water-of-dubious-origin that was draining down the concrete dock and into the river. The Old Me would NEVER have allowed her feet to touch that, and the Now Me had her doubts about it…
I followed my fisherman up a grand concrete stair, thinking to myself how nice it was. Even nicer was the house I found at the top of the stairway and the pool… although empty, it was really an upscale property and I was surprised that the Government could have such a place to house this out-of-the-way Guardia Post.
Just inside the fence beneath the shade of a tree… I came face-to-face with el Commandante. He was dressed in starched camo and had a stern look on his face. I had left my Spanish-for-Cruisers book back on the boat, but I had been studying some things I needed to tell him. So, with barely remembered words I told him that we had left Boca Chica bound for Samana, but had come here to wait for better weather.
I speak better Spanish with hand gestures… so with waving arms slapping myself on the head like big winds… and a remembered term from an old television commercial… Con Mucho Gusto… I got my message across as was evidenced by the nodding heads of all present.
Yes, the winds were big. Yes we could stay for a day or two until it calms down enough to travel out again… But yes… they would be taking my Despacho away and would give me a new one when we were ready to leave.
|Back through the Rabbit Hole...|
I yoo-hoo’d him and he appeared as I was being helped onto the deck… He had two beers in his hands and you should have SEEN the huge grins on the faces of my fishermen as their hands stretched out eagerly toward the beers!
Later on as we sat in the cockpit enjoying the cool breeze as it lessened to a more pleasant puff… we were each silently thinking about our day. Bruce broke the silence with the question: “What are we doing here sitting in the middle of some random river in the Dominican Republic?” Sometimes I wonder myself.
We marveled at the fact that Bruce had let some strange fishermen come and take his wife away leaving him on the boat to wonder what was happening to me. We wondered how many of the wives of our friends back home would have gone with the fishermen as easily as I had done. I know there are a few… but ONLY a few!
And we marveled that such a simple thing as handing a beer to another person could bring such gratification to one’s soul… the gift of beer! The Universal Peacemaker!