Friday 24th February 2012
We have been checking the weather forecasts every day and decided that a brief weather window was opening today to get us round the Cape before the really strong winds begin on Monday, so this morning Steve went ashore to collect our Despacho – a piece of paper which gives us the permission to sail to the next port – and by midday we had the anchor up and were sailing at 7 knots on a close reach in 20 knots of wind towards Cabo Beata.
We had a lovely sail for a couple of hours until we rounded the first headland, called Cabo Falso, and then the wind came around and started to head us, so we furled away the yankee and put on the engine so that we could motorsail closer to the wind. As we sailed along the coast towards the cape the seas became a bit more lumpy, so we moved a bit closer inshore and that seemed to help. We were planning to sail through the Canal de Beata, which is a shallow channel about two miles wide between the cape itself and the Isla de Beata, a small island which lies just off it, and had timed it so that we would be passing through the channel at dusk. This was to ensure that we had light to see our way through, but also to take advantage of the night lee along the coastline. The night lee involves a drop in the strength of the wind and a calming of the sea and makes life a lot more comfortable. It occurs when the katabatic winds blow off the mountains as the sun goes down and the air cools. As they do so they stall or modify the trade winds which are the ones we are beating into, and flatten out the sea.
We arrived at the channel around 1800 as the sun was dipping low, and were pleased to find that the shallow waters in the channel were fairly flat and calm and the wind around 15 knots. We motorsailed through the channel fairly comfortably. Once out of the channel, however, we were on the windward side of the peninsula and the wind and the seas picked up. We stayed within five miles of the coast and motorsailed, but it was rather uncomfortable and we decided we would aim for Las Salinas, 60 nmiles from the cape instead of Boca Chica, 120 nmiles away.