February 22, 2022
When asked how long we would be cruising, we have always answered “when it’s no longer fun”. The passage from the Bahamas to Ocean World in the Dominican Republic had us asking ourselves if we were at that point.
We had been communicating with our weather guru, Chris Parker, who had us routed to the DR and leaving on Friday morning. We have always heard from friends and other sailors that it is bad luck to leave on a Friday, but he had us routed and we wanted to complete this passage before another weather system came.
The morning of February 18, we pulled up our anchor for the last time in the Bahamas. Fortunately, we had no problems with the transmission and motored out through the shallow entrance.
The seas were still up, as was the wind, but we were assured that both would decrease as the day went on. Once out, we pulled our sails and tackled the 5-7′ waves under sail (much easier than motoring). Our weather guru had us going north and then east to combat the east wind that would be dying later in the day. After half a day we decided that the seas were not calming down and heading east into them would be more than uncomfortable. Plus, it would add miles, so southeast seemed to be the direction to head.
To get the full story of our passage, we have to go back to some injuries that Slow Dancer sustained previously.
While entering Vero Beach on the ICW, back in November, we were hailed by the marina to come to their fuel dock to check in and get our mooring ball assignment. The wind was up and the fuel dock had large timbers along the dock. We came into the dock and threw our line to the dock hand, who stood there with it in his hand and looked at us. “Hurry, put it on the cleat!” Still he looked. Ken jumped off Slow Dancer and grabbed a cleat. Whew. OK, got our assignment and paid. Now to turn SD around and head back the other direction in the wind. Our “helpful” dock hand was less than. As Dale turned SD around, our new dinghy and davits caught one of the large timbers. With no help ashore, we were helpless as the pressure bent our davits as well as the rails on our stern seats. All was still intact, but the integrity of our system was compromised. During the storm in Clarence Town, one of our stainless steel stern rails that holds both a davit and the rear seat broke. Yes, it just broke. This in itself was concerning, but the worst part is the fact that our AIS (ship identification system) wiring was housed inside this rail. OK, this is problem number one and two!
Then we had the transmission problem that no professionals seemed to be able to diagnose. After doing a LOT of research, Ken determined that it was a worn out “cone” on the transmission that would need to be replaced before it failed. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Problem number three.
The first night at sea, when we turned on our running lights, we noticed our forward navigation lights were not working! This is a red (port) and green (starboard) light that allows other boats to see us and helps them determine which direction we are going. Problem number four.
We had been hearing a clanking in our rigging. Turns out a pin on a shackle to stabilize the boom was broken. Storm? Problem number five.
Before we left Clarence Town, Ken rewired the AIS and tied the stanchion to keep it from rubbing the wiring in two again. Yaay! Problem number two, the AIS was solved. We could now see ships in the night.
We felt apprehensive, but knew that to get anything fixed we would have to get to the Dominican Republic. So off we went.
The seas continued to be large with only 5-7 seconds in between and the wind swirled onto our nose no matter our direction. We had to turn on the engine to cope with the lack of wind in our sails. What now? The engine alarm was going off. This means that there is some reason that cooling water is not circulating through the engine. As we bounced around in the big seas coming right at us Ken went below to figure out why we did not have good circulation while Dale attempted to get a bit of speed out of the sails so that we were not slamming so badly. Of course this was all in the dark. Problem number six??
Ken proceeded to check hoses and strainer baskets. He also changed our impeller to see if that was the problem. No dice. But when we put the engine in forward and revved it, the alarm stopped. But the transmission did not engage. Ugh!! We jimmied with the transmission and revved the engine and were finally underway. Day two was similar to day one, but we made better progress and were able to sail into the waves.
Night two, 2:00 a.m., after hours of bashing into the waves, the raw edge of the stanchion had again cut the AIS cable. Now, not only were we invisible to other boats, they were invisible to us. Plus we had no bow light. We turned on our steaming light and hoped for the best.
We had periodic squalls that we tried to dodge. These came with high winds, so we reefed and unreefed our sails often to keep from being blown over by these winds. We dealt with the rain as best we could.
And so it went until the morning of day four and we were near Sandy Cay in the Turks and Caicos. We would be able to stop here to rest for a couple of hours so that we would not arrive in the Dominican Republic in the dark. It was wonderful to stop for a while, eat a decent meal and dive into the crystal clear waters. Ken was also able to fix the bow light. We did not have AIS, but we would not be invisible to other ships. And there were a lot of other ships, mainly cruise ships that we had been and would continue to dodge.
Back out into the open seas and onward toward the Dominican Republic. One more night! Squalls and ships were many, but we knew that we were close. We made good progress and at 8:30 a.m. we motored through the narrow cut into the marina. We cleared customs, immigration and were boarded by the marine police to check for drugs and weapons. We had neither and were free to go. Whew…..we had arrived.