Cabo Rojo, Dominican Republic
Monday 20th February 2012
Distance run: 291 nmiles
We slipped the lines in Port Antonio mid-morning on Friday 17th and set off for Boca Chica once more. This would be a fairly challenging passage as we would have to pass around the south-western tip of the Dominican Republic against the wind and current. We needed to time the rounding of the cape for late-ish on Sunday for the mildest weather. Once around, we would need at least 24 hours to make Boca Chica before the weather would begin to deteriorate with the arrival of a cold front.
So with all this in mind, together with the usual back-up plan of bolt holes if needed, we set off. The seas were lumpy and the wind light and we motor-sailed to keep up speed in order to make the cape. The headsail was in and out like a fiddler's elbow as the wind constantly headed us, and the seas were one minute calmish and the next lumpy. We made reasonable speed with the aid of the iron topsail in changeable weather.
One of several rain squalls we managed to avoid using the radar to track around them.
All was well until the seas became very unfriendly and we began bashing into fairly big waves and taking a lot of water over the bow. Not ususally a problem for us as it all drains over the side or through the deck drains, but for some reason it decided it wanted to drain into the starboard aft deck locker, under our bed and into the prop bilge at the foot of our bed and thence into the engine compartment! The bilge pump dealt with the water in the engine room, but we needed to bail out the prop bilge too often for comfort, and with all the movement of the boat water was beginning to get into places we didn't want it.
We decided that in the current conditions it would be foolhardy to attempt to round the cape, and it was somewhat of a relief to turn towards the western coast of the Dominican Republic, turn off the engine and sail towards Cabo Rojo. With only 20 nmiles to get there, the wind gradually freed us up and instead of being close-hauled we sailed on a close reach right into the bay. This was the most pleasant part of the entire trip and a timely reminder of why we like sailing!
The water in the bay is crystal clear and we looked around for a sandy patch in which to drop the hook. We found one in 4 metres of water and were soon anchored in a very pleasant bay (if you don't look to the north to see the loading jetty for the bauxite works!)
Looking towards the beach at the anchorage is a better view... than the bauxite loading jetty!
Water so clear we could see this starfish on the bottom, 5 metres below.
We opened up the aft deck lockers, emptied them, bailed them out and spread their contents over the decks to dry. Then we set about finding out why the starboard one in particular is leaking. It appears that the rubber seals on the hatches are not making a proper seal in places, so we stuck some foam strip around the locker edge and then, whilst Steve curled up inside the locker, I blocked up the drains and threw several buckets of water over the hatches. It appears that the seal is now watertight. The port locker was left till today.
The black sealing strip on the hatch isn't sealing. The contents of lockers drying in the sun.
We try to work on the principle of our glass being half full rather than half empty. This is such an example: we occasionally had water appear in strange places - it is now no longer a mystery! Water was running under the hatch seal and if on the right tack (heeling over) it was running back to where the deck drain pipe is "boxed" in except it was NOT boxed in at the top.... It therefore created a wonderful conduit for water to run down the pipe deep into inaccessible places in the boat. We'll do a "Blue Peter" job on it with Gaffa tape and plastic until we can complete the job properly. Mind you we have hopefully stopped water getting in there but better to be safe than sorry....
It is peaceful and calm here, and we had an excellent night's sleep. Some local fishermen came out to the boat this morning to tell us that customs and coastguard wanted to visit the boat. They would bring them over for us if we gave them some petrol (a common occurence apparently). It seemed easier if we did it ourselves so the rib was duly lowered and the officials collected. We were expecting the worst as we had not checked into the country at a Port of Entry, so we explained the situation re the leak and where our destination was and they were polite and helpful. We can collect our despacho from them tomorrow and continue on to our next port. This was all achieved despite them not speaking English and us not speaking much Spanish!