Passing the Dominican Republic
Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Fri 14 Jun 2013 04:24
We have a beautifully steady trade wind pushing us west. The sky is clear and there is a hazy crescent moon directly ahead.
We have just passed south of Navidad Bank and ahead lies Silver Bank, followed by Mouchoir Bank. These three obstacles lie on the direct path between the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. We must pass to the south of them, so our route curves to within 25 miles of the Dominican Republic.
For us, with our modern navigation systems, passing the banks is simply a case of setting a waypoint a few miles to the south of Silver Bank and switching the autohelm from wind following (our normal mode of sailing) to course following. (Sailing by the wind is not so advisable when you are closing on an obstacle.) When following a course we do have to keep a closer eye on the wind direction to make sure the spinnaker does not collapse, but the wind has not varied by more than a few degrees all day.
I would hate to be where we are now without GPS. I guess in the old days sailors would hug the coast of Hispaniola, following the navigation lights to avoid these banks, so at least they wouldn’t have to rely on astral navigation to pinpoint their position.