Boca Chica - at last!
Tuesday 6th March 2012
Distance run: 69 nmiles
The weather finally eased enough to allow a 24-hour window in which to get ourselves out of Las Salinas and along the coast to Boca Chica. Getting the Despacho was no problem as the Marina de Guerra had lifted the small craft warning but it was the usual lengthy process of watching Mendez laboriously copy each word, checking every letter twice, onto a new Despacho. He had brought his friend from M-2, the intelligence(!) agency, with him, but he didn’t seem to serve any purpose other than to enjoy a drink at the bar at our expense and give Mendez a ride on his motorcycle, for which we were then asked to pay for petrol! We had decided to give Mendez a little something for his trouble anyway, so weren’t bothered by this request. We suspected Mendez had told him about the lunch we bought him at the hotel when we were last trying for a despacho and he had hoped for the same!
Anyway, piece of paper in hand, we had a few hours to spare before the wind would drop around 1700, so we went for a stroll around the town and had lunch in one of their restaurants. This was very much like the Turkish lokantasi where several meat dishes and vegetables are ready-cooked and displayed and so it was easy just to point to what we wanted. Two very tasty meat dishes, rice and beans and a big bottle of beer to share cost 280 DRPesos – less than £5, and less than the cost of lunch for one person at the hotel.
We didn’t need to shop because the previous day Jorge had lent us his car and driver to take us about 5 miles to a neighbouring town where there was an excellent fruit & veg stall with a good range of fresh (yes, fresh!) produce where we stocked up big time. We also stopped at a butcher’s where they actually had the meat stored in fridges and had two thick chops cut off a slab of pork. I was sorry not to have the camera with me as the butcher’s block was a huge piece of tree trunk which stood in the middle of the shack with just enough standing room for the butcher and his mate between that and the two chest freezers that served as fridges. Dinner that evening was a very tasty plate of pork chops, spuds and a ratatouille of okra, onion and tomatoes, all cooked by Steve of course.
We lifted the anchor just before 1800 and made our way out of the anchorage with feelings of relief to be on the move again mixed with apprehension of what we might find out there after such a long time of high winds. In the end it was not too bad. The wind had dropped quite a bit so we had around 15 knots, and we found that if we stayed close in to shore in the shallower water the sea state was not too bad. We then had to decide whether to hug the coast around Santo Domingo Bay or go across it. We opted to go across and of course the sea state was bigger and so the ride less comfortable, making sleeping difficult, but as we hoped to be in Boca Chica by morning this was not a problem.
We motor-sailed most of the trip and made the entrance to Boca Chica just before dawn, waiting in the bay for the sky to lighten and make our entrance. We found the marked channel through the reef and made our way in, nearly having a heart attack at one point when it looked as though the big breakers were actually in the channel! As the channel curved around to the right, however, it became obvious that they were not in the channel, and we followed it round to the marina. We tried calling them on the VHF, but it was either too early for them or a radio problem, so we headed for one of their moorings just outside the marina.
As usual I was on the foredeck with a boathook as Steve steered expertly toward the mooring ball. Unusually he was taking a long time to get to it and I had to keep coaxing him forward. “Are we aground?” I asked as we didn’t seem to be getting very far and I could hear a sort of scraping noise. “No, we have point seven under the keel so I don’t know what the problem is!” came the reply. We inched forward and I picked up the mooring pennant with the boat hook and pulled it on board. Also unusually, I needed Steve’s help to pull it on board far enough to hook it on the cleat. Once it was on we both looked over the sides of the boat to see if there was a problem. The water is shallow and clear to the bottom so we could easily see all around us, and there, on the port side was what looked like a wire line leading out from under the boat. Hooking it up with the boathook we discovered that it was a fishing net which must have been set between the mooring balls and was now wrapped around our keel.
A Dutch couple on a moored boat had noticed we had a problem and Rudy came over in his dinghy to ask if we needed help. He got his mask & snorkel and dived down to see how bad the situation was. Fortunately the prop was clear, but the net, suspended from its wire, was trapped over one of the wings on the keel and was very tight. That explained why we were having trouble moving! We put a line through the eye of the mooring line and let ourselves drop back until the tension was eased, and Rudy went back under the boat and started to get it free. At this point we noticed a small fishing boat pulling in a fishing net between the marina and the mooring field, and sure enough they were pulling in the net we were entangled with. When they got to our boat, between them and Rudy they pulled a very tattered fishing net off our keel before pulling in another hundred yards of so of it from between the boats!
By chance we happened to be on a mooring just off the dock where Frank Virgintino had his boat Raffles Light docked and shortly after all this he gave us a call and invited us over to the marina office for coffee. Frank has written a number of free cruising guides to the Caribbean (www.freecruisingguide.com) and we had emailed him for advice regarding sailing along the south coast of the Dominican Republic. It was good to meet him and we spent an enjoyable hour chatting as he gave us information about the marina (he doesn’t own this one but designed and built it for a friend, so is very much part of the establishment), about the local area and umpteen other subjects, sailing and otherwise!
We handed in the precious Despacho and informed the marina manager of our dismay at being caught up in a fishing net within the area of the marina itself. This was passed on to the Marina de Guerra who will advise the fishermen not to do it again. We checked into the marina and also paid for a haul out to get the stern gland looked at. We had nursed it during the last trip, bailing out the bilge every couple of hours, so it really is necessary to have it looked at. The plan is to have the boat lifted sometime today once the travelhoist becomes free. Tony of technical services came out to the boat this morning to look at the stern gland so that he has a heads up on what he is dealing with once the boat is on the hard. We hope to be in and out in a few hours, but until the extent of the problem is known we will not know. Watch this space, as they say...
We bumped into Frank again on our way to the showers and he kindly invited us back to Raffles Light to have a look at her. A wooden boat of 60 tons, she is an impressive vessel and obviously much loved by her owner. We ended the day by going over to Rudy and Gargie(sp?) to say thanks for his help this morning and to give him a bottle of wine for his trouble, and were invited on board for a drink. Several hours and beers later, we wended our way back to the boat and headed straight for bed.