I spent the morning uploading blog pics and posts. The posts were pre-written except for the latest one, which ends now…
Was I stalling? No – not really. We’ve studied the options and the weather. We’ve got a Plan A/Plan B/Plan C. Food is pre-prepared so that we won’t starve on this trip.
I was just trying to wrap up loose ends and use up some of my pre-paid Bahamian cellular data. I made contact with friends from home and we set a date for their visit to the Dominican Republic one month away. Surely we can get there within a month…
|The Lighthouse on Great Inagua|
The winds and seas had steadily decreased. We missed our planned departure time by a couple of hours but what does it matter? It was after noon when we began moving away from Great Inagua…our last Bahamian Port of Call.
My mind is unsettled. I’m ready. I’m not afraid. I’m just nervous. To be sure, getting away from this rolling anchorage with insufficient facilities for landing a dinghy has made it better to go than to stay. I am disappointed that we were unable to explore the island a bit more. But the weather window opened and we must fly through it.
Bruce trimmed the sails and we were off! The reef we had in the main got shaken out instantly. We were flirting with six knots of speed with the engine OFF! The swells – some were huge – were gentle and spaced far apart making our ride easy.
Coming from the east, they lifted us from our port side forward of the beam… just a great, gentle rise and fall. It was nothing like what we’ve endured for these past days at anchor. Sailing felt good.
But I was still nervous and jittery… I felt “compelled”. I would love to just let the sails take us there, but we need to be somewhere safe by Thursday evening. Unkind winds will come and that knowledge makes me want to move faster. Makes us NEED to move faster…
With the boat moving along nicely, I began (tried) to relax. We had a bowl of pasta salad and a couple of cookies for lunch. I settled behind the wheel to read my Kindle book. It’s a book about pirates. Seemed appropriate… Bruce prepared our cedar plug to troll for fish. Wouldn’t that be nice… to catch a fish?
I adjusted our course a couple of degrees. We were slowing down. Bruce trimmed sails and it seemed to help briefly, but soon we had to admit it. If we were going to get into port before the Norther’, we were going to have to motor sail. Again.
We knew that going in. The light winds that provided the kindly sea state wouldn’t carry this big girl very fast. It’s OK.
So… on went the “iron jenny” and we are now on course – fishing – and making a nice comfortable 5.7 knots.
|Getting later and the seas are getting better|
I came back up and found the jib rolled in and the main straining to rip out of the deck with every rolling wave… and there were many!
We needed to drop the main. I normally hate to go with bare poles because the sail at least provides a bit of stability, even if it isn’t pulling the boat. But in these waves I had to agree that we were destined for equipment failure if we left the sail up…
|See the bobble? We didn't get far before the winds died|
I had to turn the boat 45° off course so that we could climb the waves directly instead of taking them from the side in order to keep the sail centered. The swells were huge and the boat was lifted and plunged, creating an impressive spray of water from the bow.
The sail dropped into the sail pack and Bruce climbed up to secure the halyard. Coming back to the safety of the cockpit afterwards he said, “That was fun!” I’m not sure if he was kidding or not, but you’ve gotta hand it to the guy… he has cojones when he needs them…
I turned the boat back to our course, approximately 198°. That would take us down the middle of the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti by the more direct route to the Southern Peninsula. But the boat was lurching wildly in the sloppy seas. The forecast said 4.5 ft. seas but the one or two huge ones that come every few seconds are brutal.
|We found better conditions in the lee of Haitian shores|
|You can barely make out the outline of Cuba left of the sunset|
|Low dark smudge on the horizon beneath the clouds|
The seas have straightened out some… still big but not so sloppy. Not so lurchy. That’s a word, right?
Seeing Cuba eclipses the sunset!
We discussed warming up dinner but I felt disinclined to eat a hot meal. Pasta salad or cake would be just fine with me. Maybe we will have a hot lunch tomorrow instead. I feel like I’m getting a workout from constantly holding myself in place. It’s going to feel very strange when – if – it ever stops.
I’m very thankful that none of us have been seasick. I guess a week of rolling in an anchorage is good training for sloppy seas.
The breeze is warm. The stars are beginning to pop out and there’s a half moon high above us. It came out early today so I guess it won’t stay long tonight.
We made 50 gallons of water and now we’re done. I love that we can make water.
Time: 00:33 Wednesday? I just finished a cup of instant coffee. Not bad. I had a pretty good nap and came up on deck just in time for a course change. We were about 17 miles from the NW tip of the Northern Haitian peninsula.
There is a north-running current there that we want to avoid. Seas are settling further and the ride is comfortable with a 40° course change to starboard.
The DeLorme rang. Bill sent us a satellite text asking how long we want them to stay when they come visit. It’s nice being able to communicate with people while we’re out here in the middle of nowhere.
The moon continues her course across the sky. I think we will have darkness before dawn, but it sure is beautiful now. We are dancing on a moonbeam!
Earlier with the moon overhead- there was such a shadow cast by the boom and mainsail as it bounded from side to side, that I kept thinking someone was moving across the deck.
So Haiti is just a short distance to port. I really can’t see any light revealing her presence. Lights out in Haiti tonight.
We are 17 hours from Anse de Hainault. I guess we will consult with Chris Parker in the morning about continuing on or stopping there for a night.
Looking at Pocket Grib, It seems that we could continue on. The issue becomes whether or not we will have enough fuel. Light winds for sailing with opposing seas may mean motoring, which means we might need more diesel. Will discuss when Bruce gets up… We only have - like… 50 hours to decide… I would love it if my brain would let this go for now and not obsess… off to take moon pictures! Are we there yet??? Depends upon where “there” is.
Time: 1:44 Wednesday Day 2
The moonbeam is weak now. The moon has a yellowish caste and no longer lights up the sky. I wish she could stay around a little longer.
It isn’t the darkness I fear. It’s the running-into-things-hidden-by-the-darkness that scares me. Why is there any more chance of a thing being there in the dark than there is in the daytime? That’s just the way it is in the scary movies…
I see Guantanamo Bay on the chart just 75 miles to starboard. It looks like an awesome place to cruise. Showing my ignorance here… why is there a US Naval Base on Cuba? Guess I’ll give Bruce a chance to tell me when he gets up. He’ll love that.
I’ve never been interested in it before. I guess that’s why Boat Kids have such a marvelous opportunity to learn. Things aren’t just abstract bla bla bla in a book. They’re real and right over there!
Goodbye moon… see you tonight.
Time: 2:01 The ineffectual moon pulls the low-lying clouds about her face – disappearing gradually in parts. The stars exercise a newfound boldness in her absence. They follow her exit with increasing numbers, filling in from sky to horizon more strongly glittering. Phosphorescence litters the waves. Now I am sure of it. Before it might have been the falseness of moon glitter. I wish the camera could capture this. Now it is dark. There’s still no light from Haiti.
Time: 2:27 The woody scent of Haiti makes my nose wrinkle. The tickle of a sneeze reminds me of Van Zandt’s words. He said that you would know that you are close to Hispaniola when your allergies light up from the foreign particles in the air descending from the mountains and reaching you on the wind.
The clouds blot the stars but leave deep windows through which I can see the heavens. The mast lights weave jazzy circles in connect-the-dots fashion. I stare into the darkness straining my eyes to see a glimmer... any glimmer.
Sometimes I think I see a falling star – only to realize it is not the star that is falling… it is us.
Rolled out the jib and tacked 210° to 134°. We are approaching the Northern Peninsula and will continue on to Ile á Vache tomorrow morning. Maybe we will stay a day and continue to the DR
Time: 7:53 Wednesday Day 2 I had come up from my sleep at about 5:20 am. It was dark but beginning to show signs of approaching dawn. My favorite time on an overnight passage is the coming of a new day. It is an indescribable feeling.
I eagerly search the horizon for land. Traveling the shores of a new country in the dark deprives us of seeing the land. Even if we don’t pass any closer than the 14 miles from shore, if the island is mountainous we should be able to see it… I think…
I was treated to a vague shape of the northern peninsula of Haiti. It rose lumpy in the space between horizon and cloud studded sky.
|BIRDS!!! We must be close to land!!!|
We talked over our plan to get a weather report on SSB. The engine and refrigeration need to be off for better reception. Bruce suggested rolling out the jib to keep us from just bobbing like a cork when we shut the engine down. We also hope to be able to actually sail but we quickly realized that wasn’t happening.
Our speed dropped to less than two knots as I went below to get the weather. I tried calling in on 8137 but Chris Parker couldn’t hear me. So I switched to 4045 and he heard me. I always sweat it until he says our name. Right now we are sort of in between the two frequencies…
We are continuing on to Ile á Vache. The question is now do we stay one night and move on or will we wait there to get closer to a weather window for rounding Cabo Beata. The answer: Not sure. It looks like we could have a couple of days there and I’m excited.
We rolled the jib back in and Bruce made me some coffee before going down for his sleep. Jezabelle tag teamed us in the bed all night. She came up to get a nibble between watches and stared out into the darkness… then she joined whoever was in the bed next for a nap.
She really has been so good throughout all of this. We’ve had some rolly times since leaving Thompsons Bay… it seems so long ago.
|Ans de Hainault... or Detour|
Floating lines mark their traps and if we’re motoring there is a good chance of snagging one with our prop. This could be unpleasant. We passed a group of boats laying out long nets with larger floats holding them to the surface… this was in two thousand foot depths. I’m nervous.
|You can barely see land in the distance...|
We had a fishing pole out but forgot to set the clicker. I noticed that there was no line. I guess a fish took lure and line and we never heard a thing.
|Heading right for us!!!|
Suddenly we decided to raise our sails to get some speed. Now whether or not this was due to a perceived wind shift or because that Haitian was rapidly heading our way… I do not know. That’s a lie. I know. We were worried that he was coming to get us. So we pulled away, leaving him to his business, whatever that is…
As we round the point I guided the boat out to deeper water to avoid the fishermen. One lone boat drifts slowly shoreward across in front of us. I guess they aren’t trying to get us.
Only about an hour ago I realized that we needed to strike the Bahamian flag and raise the Q. We have no plans to clear into Haiti but might have to in order to buy fuel. If only we had some wind to sail!!! It would be nice if we didn’t have to buy diesel in Haiti.
We are amazed at the fact that we are actually here skirting the coast of this mountainous wonder when so shortly ago we were surrounded by the flat islands of the Bahamas. Pinch me!! I know for some people this is no big deal. But if I’ve ever been more out-of-my-comfort-zone than I am right now, I don’t remember when.
We don’t speak their language and we can’t even begin to understand their lives, no matter how many cruising guides we read.
The weather is no longer our biggest concern… and while this isn’t like having crossed an ocean… it’s a big deal to us.
Maybe they are as apprehensive of us as we are of them…
|Sun is getting lower... still moving along the coast...|
|Enjoying calm seas and the view of the Southern Peninsula coastline.|
Things got busy during the night so the following was done afterward.
We had thought to move down around the coast of the Southern Peninsula, staying about 4-5 miles offshore where we were still in the more shallow – only 75 to 150 foot depths- waters. The swell was smaller here and we hoped to find a land breeze to sail by. With only an hour until sundown we realized that we were surrounded by floating bottles with lines leading down to the fish traps on the sea floor. There was no way we could continue to motor through them after dark and no wind for sailing. We had to go out to deeper water.
|Our unplanned detour|
|Uncharacteristically nice sunset for my mood...|
|We ran for the shallows and then ran for the deep!|
Both Bruce and I were on deck for this event. Bruce used the binoculars to identify the navigational lights on the ship as we closed the distance between us… and I was at the helm monitoring the AIS and making course changes. I wanted to avoid the ship by as wide a margin as I could and so I turned to starboard, which would take us South to deeper water.
It seemed as if the ship altered course as well and regained a collision course. WTF??? So maybe he wants the offshore side… so I turned back to port almost 180° and moved toward the shallow shelf… maybe I could get away from him that way. He changed course again.
Seriously??? I had to make a decision, run for shallow water and risk snagging a line on the prop, or go back out and run 90° away from our mutual path in hopes that I could get far enough away with the four miles and closing between us.
I began to feel very much in-over-my-head. Would this be it? Would this tanker mow us down and sink us to the bottom of the abyss? Was this deliberate?
Bruce called out that he could see the red lights indicating that we had moved far enough over to see his port side. Slowly the lights moved further and further behind us and I heaved a sigh of relief as I began to bring us back to our proper course in 10° increments.
My legs were shaking and I could feel the blood pumping in my forehead. That was closer than I liked but it was over and we were back on course with a morning arrival to look forward to.
Miraculously I was able to sleep when my watch was over. I left Bruce at the helm with reasonably decent seas… long rolling swells but organized and a fair distance apart. By the time I awoke, it had deteriorated somewhat.
The organization of the waves was completely disrupted and we were bouncing around like crazy. There was almost no wind. I took my watch and sat there watching the shadow of each huge swell rise silently in front of my eyes and then lift us up and over the top.
Again I was talking myself into believing that this wasn’t bad. It’s only swells. If it were daylight this would be a delightful ride. The swells became larger and the bow began to drop off the top to crash into the next wave with an impressive spray.
I began to worry that we would take blue water over the bow if it got any worse. The seas had been so benign that we had really forgotten to put on our PFDs. At this point, I remembered. I pulled the cabin door shut and tethered myself to the cockpit… and I sat… waiting for that wave.
The wave never came. Conditions improved and I realized that it really was very beautiful out there. I was startled by the splash and sound of a dolphin taking a huge breath about 15 feet away from me. I continued to watch the water and saw the dolphin surface again and again, leaving a ruffled bunch of phosphorescent creatures scattering. They were sparkling in the edges of our bow wake and it was magical.
By the time Bruce came back up on watch I had the sea state calmed down nicely. You’re welcome! I had put the moon to bed and now would do so for myself. I left him in charge with dire warnings should he let the situation deteriorate again before I awoke.
I felt so badly for poor Jezabelle. She was defending her spot in the bed as if her life depended upon it. If it even LOOKED like we were going to move her, she hissed and swatted at us. Her slight frame was no match for the pitching of the boat and watching her moving from the bed to the water dish and the litter box would have been comical had I not felt so guilty about inflicting this upon her.
|All the dawn we got with lots of clouds|
The boats were a step back in time. How can there be such disparity between the world we come from and this one?
|Looking across the bay at the mainland|
|Still avoiding the floating trap lines|
|Bruce on point watching for obstacles|
|Approaching the anchorage|
|One really nice home on the point|
|Happy to see civilization here!|
|Here they come!|
The weather window held open and we did fly through it... arriving safely in a new land. If only our friends could see us now! We’ve bested our fears and our doubts and the confidence in our choices has paid off. Now… we find a spot to anchor and see what life has in store for us next….