100 Days at Sea!

March 12, 2019 commemorated our 100th Day at Sea:

Our 100th day. Photo taken at anchor in Sosau, DR
  • 3,030 Nautical Miles sailed
  • 17 Ports of call
  • 8 Books read (by Sarah)
  • 7 Fishing lures lost
  • 10 Fish caught
  • 7 Fish released
  • 11 Movies watched
  • 1,000+ Drinks consumed
  • Countless boat parts broken or lost
  • Scores of new friends made

On our 100th day, we released our mooring ties at 06:30 and headed through the buoy run to sea to stage at an anchorage ~30nm east at Sosau with our buddy boats (Leef Nu, Aqua Trek, and Music). Conditions were comfortable until late morning, typical for the north cost of the Dominican Republic. We were guided into an anchorage area by a small dive boat, showing us where the sand patches were amongst the coral (not that we couldn’t clearly see them through the water). Kevin and Cheryl on Leef Nu arrived a few minutes before us, and we were frustrated that the dive boat insisted we drop anchor within whispering distance from them. Small dive boats, large catamarans for snorkelers, and fishing boats surrounded us, so we had little choice in the matter, especially considering we still had no depth sounder other than a lead line. We decided to move anchorage spots as soon as one of the two large catamarans departed for the day. Within 30 minutes of anchoring, we weighed the anchor and headed to the other side of Leef Nu, offering much more swing room between their vessel and Music once we left the middle. We donned our headsets and I stood on the bow, informing Nate which direction to steer to find a nice, sandy spot to anchor in. After an aggressive turn to port when I saw bubbles from surfacing scuba divers, we found a large sand area to drop the hook. Naturally, you never end up anchoring where you intend to… by the time the hook catches the seafloor, the vessel slows to a halt, spins into the wind, and you let out enough scope of chain to be secured, you’re often hundreds of feet from where you envisioned the boat settling. Unsatisfied with our proximity to the other excursion catamaran, we weighed anchor, again. We communicated where we felt was the best location, given the circumstances and headed that way. The entire anchorage was smattered with bits of coral heads, rocks, and sand patches – most of which were 20-30 feet under water. Naturally, just as we’re approaching our “ideal” anchorage spot, I inform Nate that the coral head I could see about to pass under our bow was much assuredly in 10 feet or less of water. At that point, we had very little speed through the water, so all we could do was hold our breath and hope the coral was greater than 5’3” deep (our vessel’s draft). Pleased to not hear or feel any scrapes, we let the anchor go in a large sandy patch forward of the coral. Relieved that we were well clear of the other vessels and the seemingly shallow coral head, we let our out breath and decided to go for a swim (knowing we couldn’t go ashore without permission from the authorities, nor did we need to, given we were leaving the anchorage that night). We lathered up in our reef-safe sunscreen, donned our masks, snorkels, and fins (for Nate, I still prefer no fins) and jumped in to the cool Atlantic water. We started our snorkel with a visit to the shallow reef nearby and were greeted happily by dozens of pretty fish, assuming we were there to feed them, as the tourist boats do. We enjoyed playing with them, although it was a challenge not to kick any! The reef appeared to be more of a rock, likely petrified coral (if that’s a thing… I’m not a biologist) with plenty of sea urchins, shells, and fish tucked in to each of the hundreds of holes and under the ledges. I found the shoalest spot on the reef and gently lowered my foot to see how deep it was… fearing for an sort of urchin needle in my toes, I quickly retracted my leg, realizing the reef was most assuredly more shallow than my body height. Quick math surprised me to realize how lucky we were not to hit the reef on our way in. I’m only 5’6” and given the several inches of buffer for the urchin safety zone, Lady Sun Dream miraculously passed over the area unscathed. We had fun playing with the fish some more and then headed to check out the hull, hoping for little to no damage from our rock encounter in Manzanillo. Fortuitously, our hopes were confirmed: very little cosmetic damage – just some paint missing from the keel. We swam over to Music to borrow a GoPro waterproof case (ours broke that morning) and then Nate ceased snorkeling and I jumped back in with the GoPro to make a video for you all to see:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLtrTsTcwbA

After a little more swimming, I returned to the boat, took a nice, long shower (Nate fixed the water maker!) and we had an early dinner. The group’s original plan was to get underway at 20:00, but by sunset, the anchorage was dead calm and I suggested we leave while there was still some light remaining. Everyone agreed and we weighed anchors and were underway within 30 minutes, offering an anchorage exit with dusk light, adding to our safety and comfort.

We motor sailed all night and most of the day, drooling over the absolutely gorgeous coastline – it could have easily been Jurassic Park. The caverns, crags, slopes, mountains, blowholes, and beaches were spectacular. Although we only saw one potential whale blow, we were pleased that several of our buddy boats had the pleasure of whale sightings. We arrived at Puerto Bahia Marina on the south coast of the Samana Peninsula around three in the afternoon. We were incredibly grateful to Miranda and Owen for their assistance with relaying necessary dock line preparations and for helping with the actual docking evolution. We are not accustomed to pilings on each side of the bow, a short dock on one side, and concrete structures against our stern. Thankful we finally arrived in Samana, we cracked open our celebratory “new port” brews and helped relay docking information to our incoming buddy boats. Once we checked in to the port, Nate and I toured the resort then he took a nap and I spent the evening in the infinity pool with our friends for Sundowners. Oh, the spoils of 5-star resort marina life! We met our group for pizza and headed to bed early, coveting a real night of rest.

Thursday morning brought bright eyes and bushy tails after a phenomenal night of sleep. I took advantage of the hotel gym and a somewhat-healed hamstring muscle while Nate downloaded weather files and discussed our next move with the other guys. Midmorning, Nate and I met a nice gentleman on the dock by the name of Mario, he introduced himself and was greatly interested in where we came from, what we thought of the DR, etc. Friendly as can be, he had to rush off to give a lecture at a meeting being held at the resort. Before he departed our company, he let us know that he kept his 32’ Boston Whaler in the marina and was going to take it across the bay to the national park in the afternoon, informing us we were welcome to join him. We thanked him and let him get to his lecture. Nate and I immediately discussed the invitation, and not being ones to ever turn down an invitation from a local, decided we’d be certain to find him after his lecture and enthusiastically accept the invitation. We were planning to go to town, but were wary that we’d miss him after the lecture. Luckily, he had a break between the meeting and we found him about 30 minutes later. He was pleased to hear he would have company joining him (he was going across the bay regardless) and we settled on a time to meet in the afternoon. Knowing we had 3-4 hours before our adventure, we grabbed Jay, Willow, Cara, and Eddie and started to make arrangements to get to town, five miles away. After turning down the $35 taxi ride the hotel concierge offered us, we decided we’d try the cheaper option of hitch hiking or public transportation. We endeavored to walk out of the resort, only to find that it contained massive hills and was at least a mile of the 4-mile trip to town. None of us were prepared to walk four miles in our flip flops and we hadn’t even packed roadies. Luckily, a few minutes in to the first of many steep hills, a large white van drove by us – the driver wearing a resort uniform. He stopped and offered us a ride to the resort gate. Fantastic! Part way there! We excitedly piled in to the van and were extremely relieved to see how many massive hills we’d avoided walking up and down. He dropped us off at the gate and we asked the security guard if there was a bus stop. He confirmed and pointed the end of the driveway. Excellent! A resort employee was waiting there, as well, and we confirmed with her it would cost 50 pesos ($1USD) per person. Well, that certainly beat $35 for 8 of us. While we waited for the bus, a rickety pickup truck drove down the resort drive and just as the driver was about to pull out on to the main highway (of which we were already concerned with walking) he backed up and offered us a ride. Woohoo! We piled in and enjoyed our bumpy, hilly ride towards town. The driver shrewdly stopped at the fuel station and asked us for some money for petroleum – “no problemo” we all said, having already discussed tipping him for the ride. He put a few hundred pesos worth of petrol in the truck and we were off again towards town. He was gracious enough to stop near the small grocery and what we would eventually start referring to as “Costco.” He offered to wait for us while we shopped – wow, even better! Drooling at the concept of wholesale beer, we all rushed in to Costco and worked to communicate our desires, compare prices and products, etc. Not wanting to take too much of our driver’s time, the group quickly placed orders for cases of beer and rum and I ran across the street to get eggs. I returned with a tray of 30 eggs and a jumbo, ice-cold Presidente beer for Nate and I to share. By that point, the group had already discussed with our driver that he would happily take us to the ATM. We loaded back in to the truck bed, sitting on our “Costco” plunders with massive smiles and he drove us down the hill towards the town’s waterfront. He stopped at a bank that just so happened to be suitably located next to a small gas station type of shop and Altice (local cell phone service) store. Jackpot. Jealous of my cold beer, for obvious reasons, everyone jumped out of the truck to withdraw cash and purchase cold brews. Cara beelined for the piña colada cart across the street and I went to the Altice store to add another 5 days to our unlimited local data plan. Drinks in hand and cash in wallets, we hopped back in to the truck for our drive back to the resort.

At some point during the shopping, most of us noticed that the driver was wearing a marina shirt, hoping this would bode well for us, we crossed our fingers for a ride ALL the way back to the marina… not just the main gate. Our superstitious finger-crossing paid off and he drove us right up to the side of the docks. Laughing that he has clearly done this before, we offloaded our purchases and offered to tip him some more money. Unsurprisingly, he requested a specific amount from each couple. After a little miscommunication, we tipped/paid him more than we’d planned, but still less than a $35 cab would have cost in total. Nate and I hurried our goods down the dock, immediately throwing several warm beers in to the freezer, changed clothes, and headed to find Mario. We quickly found him and he let us know he was almost ready. We quickly returned to the boat, grabbed our cooler and backpack and headed back towards his boat. As we were preparing to depart, we mentioned to him we thought he was bringing clients from the meeting aboard, otherwise, we would have brought along at least one of our couple-friends (I knew Willow would have LOVED to see the park – being as much of a nature lover, if not more, than I am). He laughed at the clients comment but said we were welcome to invite more people. Knowing we were on a bit of a timeline because he had dinner plans, I called and texted Willow and Jay. With no answer, I figured I might as well invite Miranda and Owen, knowing they were on the dock, not at the pool. They happily accepted and promptly packed a cooler to join us. No sooner had they left their boat that Jay returned my call. Whoops…. “Sorry, Mario, would it be okay if two more came?” He happily agreed and they hustled from the pool to the Boston Whaler across the marina. At that point, Willow said Cara wanted to go, but Eddie didn’t – I figured one more body couldn’t hurt, so I confirmed with Mario, called Cara to tell her to get herself to the boat as fast as her legs could carry her (we were throwing off lines at that point). She boarded just as we shoved off and we all joked and apologized to Mario that we’d accidentally turned his afternoon cruise in to a party. He wasn’t the slightest bit upset, if anything, he may have been excited to have more folks aboard and we headed out of the marina. We sailors drooled at the smoothness of the Boston Whaler cutting effortlessly through the water at 20 knots and were so incredibly happy to be aboard on this fantastic, complimentary excursion. We all desired see the park, but the paperwork to leave then reenter our marina was pretty intimidating and the conditions were not good for a sail or anchorage across the bay.

I’ve struggled to find the words to describe the rest of our afternoon. As we approached the opposite shoreline, we were pleasantly surprised to see a landscape even more beautiful than we imagined. Most of our assumptions were that of similar scenery to our side of the bay, which is beautiful. We couldn’t have been more thrilled to discover the south side of the bay was not only more stunning, but also infinitely more striking. What unfolded before our eyes was incomparable to anything any of us have gazed upon in this hemisphere. We could only liken the incredible islet formations, jutting up as roughly weathered cliffs of the largest boulder imaginable, to that of Southeast Asia. The rock giants were spotted with various ferns and other flora, with some bewitching ability to grow where there appears to be no soil.  If we thought the northern coast looked like something out of Jurassic Park, this park was the cover image.

My personal favorite jagged, fantastical island in the park.

Awestruck and a little dumbfounded, we alternated smiles with spells of gaping mouths. Not only was the geography mesmerizing, but the fauna added to the appeal. Among Mario, Willow, and Jay, every bird we could see was properly identified – even the albatross, which Mario kept harping “shouldn’t be here…” through his excitement and slight confusion.  As if our souls were not already overflowing with joy, Mario’s driver, Pedro, seemed to know the area like the back of his hand. He weaved in and out of the massive islets, propelling the vessel through gaps that made each of us hold our breath. He steered us into a semi-protected area and several of us jumped in for a swim. The water was refreshing and cool and offered us the opportunity to swim towards a grotto, formed from an upward moving crack in one of the massive islets. We splashed around in the fantastical paradise, filling all our senses with the glory surrounding us. We rejoined the boat and Pedro sped us through a very narrow crevice in to a mangrove-filled inlet. Recognizing the secluded bay would be ideal for manatees, we kept our eyes open and ears sharp. We were not lucky enough to see any, but shared laughter on how it may have put us all in nature stimulation overload to “top-off” our already full souls. We puttered along, around, and in between more craggy islets to a beach area, clearly set up for tourist excursions, but currently unoccupied. Pedro expertly nosed the Boston Whaler on to the sand and many of us jumped off for exploratory wanderings. I meandered through the palm trees and coconut husks to the other side of the small island, enjoying a view of the north side of the bay. We eventually pulled ourselves back on to the boat and headed towards the marina. Along the way, we spotted a whale tail, just as a humpback dove. Pedro zigzagged the boat around the area of the sighting, all of us holding our breaths to catch the next breach or surfacing. We weren’t so lucky, but still so content with our afternoon. We returned to the marina, thanked Mario to the moon and back, and said our goodbyes, hoping to see him after his dinner meeting. Our group continued the fun by having drinks together in the infinity pool until sundown. We showered and I went to sleep early, exhausted from such an incredible day, and Nate shot pool with some of the guys in the Billiard Room.

The next day, we made our decision to stay at the marina (barring any random awesome invitations to go somewhere awesome) and settled in to accomplish a few tasks in the morning. We finally agreed on an incredibly good price to have some local guys detail the exterior of the boat, so we shut all the windows, cranked on the a/c and got to work on our computers while the young men feverishly worked outside. Nate filed his taxes and I worked on some of the blog and other internet/computer necessities. Before we knew it, it was lunchtime and we were sick of being stuck in the boat. Already pleased with the job the workers were doing, we stayed out of their way as best we could for the afternoon. We rallied our group and booked our van taxi for the next day, then all met at the pool for an afternoon of fun in the sun. After many hours of enjoyable conversation, spectacular views, and several cocktails, Nate and I headed back to the boat. We were greeted with gleaming stainless steel rails, stain and spot-free decks, and the cleanest cockpit I could have ever hoped for. Money absolutely well spent. Elated, we took showers, ate a quick dinner, and headed to the billiards room for some potential pool. We took our computers with us and ended up being more productive on blogging and weather downloading than billiard playing. We got sleepy quickly and headed to bed, excited for our adventures the next day.

Many of our buddy boat friends at the infinity pool.

Saturday morning we woke early, excited to prepare for a full day of fun with our buddy boat couples. At 09:00, Cara and Eddie, Jay and Willow, Cheryl and Kevin, and Nate and I loaded in to our taxi van for the day: Backpacks, bathing suits, hiking boots, and coolers in tow. We enjoyed the 30 minute drive through the mountains to El Limon, a nearby town. We intended to hike to Cascade del Limon, but the concierge at the resort clearly underestimated our ability to be frugal. The driver, Luis, stopped at a very touristy looking restaurant and we all got out of the van, confused at where on earth the waterfalls were in the town. Unsurprisingly, a tour guide who asked if we had reservations for the waterfalls approached us.

Having done my research in to the excursion, I quickly assumed my Admiral role, speaking for the group, and scolded him that we would absolutely not pay $15 a person for a guide, nor $30 a person for a horse and guide. Appalled by the assumption of money, once again, I promptly asked Luis to drive us to the waterfall. Seeing the amusement in his face, he said he’d be happy to help us get one guide for $10 for the whole group. Now, that was more like it! He drove out of town, back the way we’d come, and stopped at what looked much more like a hiking area. We arranged to have Alejandro be our guide for $10. Given he couldn’t speak English and the trail was incredibly well-marked, we basically paid him just because we felt as if we should. Thrilled that we’d saved $110, collectively, we set off down the trail. We made our best efforts to avoid any fresh horse poo, but soon accepted that the majority of the trail was more horse manure than dirt. Our guide did his best to show us the path of least poo and point out trees and fruits of interest. We eventually approached an area where several horses were tied up with no riders. Again, having done my research, I knew this was the point that even if you rode a horse for the first part of the hike, you still had to use your own feet to descend the 280 stars to the waterfalls. We paid our 50 pesos ($1) per person entry fee to the national park, and headed towards the falls, past a classic tourist-trap of a gift shop and overpriced hut-bar.

We started our descent, stepping cautiously on the uneven, wet steps towards the sound of the falls. As we approached the falls and droves of tourists, we took a photo or two of the main waterfall and I promptly led Nate (the rest of the group followed) down to the lower waterfall, not quite as tall, but much more private and the water much more clear than the large pool above. We all enjoyed the photo opportunities and several of us splashed in to the water, cooling off in the fresh mountain springs. Nate and I explored a little, then rejoined the group, popped up to the upper falls for another dip (no reason not to, we were already wet!) and then headed back up the stairs towards cold beers and lunch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PCeCRGY4Gk
Video montage of the waterfalls and evening reception.

After scrubbing our shoes as clean as we could, we cracked open cold beers and then loaded back in to the van to head to lunch. I asked Luis to take us somewhere the locals eat. We went into the town of Samana and he directed us in to a small, crowded fast-food type shop. Only, the chicken was freshly fried and beans and rice hot. The owner was kind enough to pull a few tables together for us and then extended her hospitality by offering cervezas for each. We obliged and she hurried away. We immediately realized she was going to go to the grocery store to buy the beer, having no cooler or beer on the menu. Grateful for the effort, we ordered large quantities of fried chicken, rice, beans, and even some fried plantains.  Once we finished gorging our bellies, we paid our wonderfully inexpensive tab and left a nice tip for the owner. We then proceeded to purposefully wander through town, picking up pineapples, eggs, cash at the ATM, jumbo beers, and finally ending at “Costco,” loading up on more rum and beer. Luis accommodated our purchases by letting us offload the most recent in the van before carrying on to the next store. We finally headed back to the resort, paid Luis for our awesome day and planned to continue our party. Much to our liking, the resort staff immediately informed us of the free sangria and dancing party at 18:00 that evening. Fantastic! It was only 16:30 – plenty of time to put away our groceries, shower, and have a cocktail while waiting for free drinks. I whipped up a quick batch of hodgepodge sangria to share with a particularly cheap bottle of red wine and a few handy add-ins and we continued our afternoon fun. A few minutes after 18:00, we arrived in the lobby, eager to slurp down some free drinks. To no surprise, the sangria, although displayed beautifully with fruit in elegant wine glasses, was watered down and most of the available bulb of the glass was wasted on ice. Not ones to be too picky about free drinks, we sucked down a round and decided we’d see how many we could get – knowing darn well they had a quarter of the alcohol of a normal drink, so no one feared for an instant onset of inebriation. The hotel also provided a large tray of jumbo fish croquettes – a few of which sufficed as dinner, making the evening even cheaper. After two sangrias for Nate and three for me (only because I managed to get the last glass available) we delighted in conversation with a few sailors outside of our group and hit the hay early, exhausted from such a fun-filled day.

Sunday morning I awoke to sounds of Celtic music in my head, excited for St. Patrick’s Day. I scrambled out of bed to prepare and bake a loaf of fresh beer bread for the day’s activities, uncertain of whether we’d all decided to do a brunch, lunch, or dinner potluck. I carried my excitement to the hotel gym for a morning workout, knowing darn well I would be eating and drinking too much that day. Nate downloaded the most updated weather files while I worked out and then I prepared a delicious “Irish” breakfast of corned beef on fresh bread, topped with a fried egg. The combination was not only delicious, but a nice break from one of our “normal” breakfasts, which rotated between pancakes, French toast, bunny-in-the-holes, and scrambled eggs – often lacking breakfast meats, as bacon and sausage are difficult to find and much lower quality than we’d like. To ensure we started the day on the right foot, we had a wee bit o’ Bailey’s with our morning meal, Irish music playing in the background. We popped over to tour a beautiful Amel 54’ (newer version of the “youtube famous” SV Delos), owned by Wolfgang and Freida who we’d met the night previous. Seeing that our group was not doing brunch together, Nate continued with computer and Internet research while I fervently attempted to catch up on the blog. Come early afternoon, the ants started bustling metaphorically in my pants, so I tossed the blog aside in search of human interaction. We found Eddie and John chatting and drinking on John’s boat (Latitude Adjustment) with his wife, Sally, popping in and out of the conversation as she kept an eye on a gorgeous hunk of corned beef, stewing in the cabin. Nate and I joined the fun for a couple of hours, confirming our potluck wasn’t until 17:00. A few minutes before, we stopped back at the boat to pack a cooler and gather our bread for the billiard room potluck. The spread was excellent – eight couples can put together quite a delectable menu of food, even on short notice on a sailboat. Yet again, we had a lovely evening of friendship and fun, sharing stories, shooting pool, and eating too much food. I headed to bed quite early with an upset stomach (courtesy of overeating) and Nate continued shooting pool with much of the group until almost midnight.

Monday brought us a fairly productive morning aboard the boat as I battled to update and correct issues with the website and subscriber list and Nate researched chart plotter alternatives for the boat. Frustrated with the website, I went for a long walk around the resort.  Successfully blowing off steam and burning calories while soaking up the sun and incredible views from the mountain villas, as I terraced up the rows of houses to view the resort and bay from the highest point. We relaxed midday, called our parents and then joined friends for afternoon drinks. We ended our day with an excellent sundowners meal and socializing with John and Sally on their vessel.

Tuesday morning, I cooked breakfast while Nate listened to the morning weather reports and downloaded visual forecasts. Surprisingly, the weather window for later in the week had extended to include the coming evening through Friday. Excited at the news, we went for a quick walk and discussed our plans to shove off for Puerto Rico that evening. Feeling good about the prospect, we met with buddy boats to let folks know our plans and if anyone wanted to join. At one point, several were joining, but within a few hours, all had decided to wait until the following morning to leave. We stuck to our intentions, knowing we’d see them a day or two later. Cheryl was kind enough to accept payment in the form of five gallons of potable water to use her training as a physiologist to “cup” my still tight and painful hamstring. Pleased with the different approach to releasing the tension, I am hopeful for faster progress to feeling 100%, again. Nate and I headed over to the government offices (conveniently located at the marina) to begin the paperwork process to check out of the country. Unfortunately, being noon, the offices were vacant and we settled on the likelihood that we may not actually check out that day. Within 30 minutes, one of the officials returned and we were able to start the legislative ball rolling. Cleared with Customs and Immigration, we only needed to wait to see the local Commandant when he returned after 14:00. No problem, we weren’t planning to depart until 17:00, anyway. I took advantage of the last few hours of resort access, propping my laptop on the side of the pool and relaxing in the cool water as I wrote some of this blog. My drink and attention span eventually fizzled out, so I returned to the boat to see what sort of preparations needed to be made. We met the Commandant at 14:00 and he said he would come by the boat at 16:00 to give us our dispatch paperwork, which is valid for roughly an hour after being signed. We spent the next hour or so prepping the boat, ordering pizza to-go, and spending our last Dominican pesos on milk, soda water, and candy bars at the resort’s mini market. Despacho paperwork in hand, we said farewell-for-now to our buddy boats and untied the lines, Puerto Rico bound!

The evening was lumpier than planned, sending the bow into every 5th or 6th wave, crashing water on our very clean decks and covering our freshly shined stainless steel rails with salt spray. Conditions calmed enough to get some rest and with the full moon to light our way, we slept intermittently. The morning presented another round of sporty seas as we motorsailed through “Hourglass Shoals” in the “Murderous Mona” passage. Luckily, the seas quelled throughout the day and I was able to read a marvelous amount of my book and actually get up to day on this blog. We arrived to the Puerto Real anchorage, near Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico around 17:00, toasted with our “new country” champagne and enjoyed a relaxing evening. We’ve made plans to join Owen and Miranda (on S/V Sarabi) to town tomorrow (Thursday morning) and are excited to be on American soil, again!

2 thoughts on “100 Days at Sea!”

  1. Awesome reading about your adventures. Keep it coming… Let me know when you plan to be in San Juan.

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