Buddy Boat Boogie
For the past four weeks, we have been really movin’. We had been in Georgetown, Exumas longer than we ever imagined, about 6 weeks, so we were ready to move on. One of the last days there, we attended a seminar on the beach about sailing windward, and we met a couple traveling the same direction we were. It was then, that a “buddy boat” relationship was born. A “buddy boat” is exactly what it sounds like, a boat that travels with you for a portion, or all, of your journey. In the cruising community, you meet new people all the time, but if the stars align, plans merge, friendships form, then - poof - buddy boats come into being.
|Beach seminar about sailing to windward|
Walter and Meryl on s/v Flying Cloud, a Taswell 44, have been sailing for years near Seattle, but this is their first year to brave the great, blue waters beyond the bays and harbors near land. I’m not sure they knew what they were in for when they decided to travel with us! We are by no means extremely weathered sailors, but we have done multi-day sails, overnights, and lots of blue water. Plus, Mark’s perspective of rough sailing is a bit jaded since his 15-day trek with Martin from Brazil to St. Lucia into the wind with a 2 hours on/2 hours off watch schedule 24/7! Any sailing for him since then has been “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy”, as Elizabeth would say.
Refer to the map below to follow our "boogie" down to the Dominican Republic (referred to as DR by most cruisers, we've found out).
We set off and hopped from Georgetown to Long Island, then over to Rum Cay. Each of these passages required about 8-10 hours, so they made for long days. It was helpful to have another set of eyes as we anchored in new places. We shared information about coral heads or paths through the reefs. And once anchored, we shared stories of our passage over a few sundowners and planned the next leg of the trip together.
|Reviewing weather updates over happy hour|
The wind was decent, so we decided to just stay overnight at both places and keep moving on to Mayaguana. Once there, we took a 6 day break waiting for a weather window and did some snorkeling, spearfishing, and recuperating. It was a very barren island with crystal clear waters. Mark caught dinner almost every night, and gave Walter a few fishing tips. The spearfishing was tricky, however, because once he’d spear one, it wouldn’t take long for the sharks to show up, cutting the fishing trip short! Then, as he cleaned the fish on the back steps, sharks would come for the fishhead buffet right underneath us! It was quite a sight!
|Scanning the ocean floor for a snack!|
|Flying Cloud anchored nearby in Mayaguana|
|Sightseeing in Mayaguana|
At one point during our stay there, I looked out at the water and noticed a dinghy floating in the distance. Hmmm… wonder whose dinghy that is? Someone else spearfishing? A quick glance at our stern cleat where we tie our dinghy and - gasp – “That’s ours!! Bad dinghy, bad dinghy!” We quickly got on the radio and called our buddy boat, “Our dinghy ran away! Can you help?” Walt hopped in his dinghy, zoomed over and saved the day!
After Mayaguana, it was a longer trip down to the Dominican Republic. Since the winds were good, we opted to skip West Caicos of the Turks and Caicos Islands and just keep going. The waves weren’t extremely comfortable, rolling under one hull, then the other, but it was tolerable. Unfortunately for Flying Cloud, the ride was even rougher on their monohull, rocking back and forth with each swell. Throughout the trip, we would radio each other to check in and offer encouragement. It wasn’t a fun trip, but it was nice to know we weren’t alone. Plus, Mark had a great time tracking who was going fastest!!
|A calmer portion of our windward passage with Flying Cloud|
As we pulled into the Ocean World Marina near Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, it was a shared celebration! One more portion of our windward journey had been completed! The island was beautiful, lush and green with tall mountains. It was very different from the flat, dry spits of land in the Bahamas. The air was filled with misty rain as we tied up to the customs dock. The dockhands greeted us with smiles, saying, “Buenos”. We were in a whole new world, again, and I frantically searched my brain for the necessary Spanish responses. I hadn’t used it since our time in Argentina, so I was a bit rusty! It was hard, but good, to be immersed in a Spanish-speaking country once again. My Spanish is not much past high school level 1, but Walter and Meryl were grateful for my limited vocabulary as we took a taxi to the grocery store. It proved quite useful - ordering deli cheese, finding items, reading labels, and understanding the checkout clerk. While in the marina, we also did laundry, enjoyed the pool, did boat projects, and homeschooled.
|Taking down the Bahama flag and putting up the yellow "Q" flag before entering the DR|
|Ocean World Marina surrounded by a huge breakwater wall|
On Easter Sunday, we invited them over for “boat church”. Meryl made delicious coffee cake and brought it over. Elizabeth read the resurrection story from the Bible, and then we watched a video podcast of the Easter service from our home church CherryHills Community Church.
|What a treat! The Easter Bunny must've planned ahead and hidden those in storage!|
|Terrifying taxi ride to bus station|
|Riding local style!|
|Lobby and courtyard of Dona Elvira B&B|
|Christopher Columbus Statue|
|Gargoyles at oldest church in Western Hemisphere|
|Horse carriage in Old Town Santo Domingo|
|Shoeshiners in the park|
When we got back to the boat, we were happy to see our buddies. They filled us in on what we’d missed, and we prepared to take off once again. Mark called the customs office and found out that we had to officially be sent off the dock by a naval officer. In the Dominican Republic, you must check out of each port and check in to each port along your trip, if you are going ashore. I sent the laundry to the Laundromat at 2 p.m., they delivered it back to the boat about 2 hours later clean and folded (a welcomed luxury, for sure), and the naval officers showed up at 5:45 p.m. to see us off the dock. Talk about quick turn around! The winds had picked up to over 18 knots, so the departure was not a pretty one. We got blown into our buddy boat as we untied the dock lines, and it was a scramble of fenders and lines to try to right us again. Not one of our shining maneuvers, but we were glad to know the boat into which we were bumping!!
The next few hops had to be during the night, to make use of the land-effected winds that occur as the heat from the day gets sucked off the land and onto the water. We’d leave in the dark, and arrive before lunchtime. Our two chosen anchorages along the DR’s northeastern coast were some of the most beautiful I’d ever seen. The first, El Valle, was a small bay surrounded by huge, green mountains. At the base, was a fishing village, complete with huts and dugout fishing boats. Six to eight men would pile into a boat, row out, drop a net along their way out, and then return to the beach and haul it up by hand. I was mesmerized as I watched them work. When we got too close to their intended fishing area to anchor, they enthusiastically waved us away, yelled, and pointed to the opposite side of the bay. We understood the sign language, radioed our buddies and shared the request with them, not wanting to make any enemies!
|El Valle Fishing Village|
|S/V Flying Cloud in Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic|