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Monday, 23 November 2009

Sailing with Captain Ray.

19 53.60N 70 57.0W
We're in Luperon at the Puerta Blanca so called "Marina", it's 9.30am and we're half an hour early, so we've ordered breakfast and are waiting for Ray to arrive to take us on a weekend sail down to El Castillo. Ray arrives with his friend Barry at about 10, and over coffee we get the low down on our itinary. Plans have changed, since we spoke a few days ago, because Ray tells us, that to leave Luperon he would need a despachio, which basically is a piece of paper from the harbour master to say we are not new arrivals to the country. Without this we can't dock in El Castillo so Ray suggests we go for a day sail and return to Luperon Bay for the night.
Ray then tells us that although he bought his boat, a 36ft contessa, three years ago he has only sailed it for one day and that was yesterday when he and Barry took it out to see if everything still worked. Still he seems confident that every things fine and so we head off to the jetty to climb aboard the dingy, although first Ray has to blow up the dingy as it's got a slow leak that he's tried to fix but so far he's failed to find it. Well I know what he means little leaks can be a bother, so we brush this off as an everyday hazard with dingies. Hold on, says Ray as he goes to start the out board it may shoot off at high speed as he has to start it at full throttle.The engine kicks into life and in a cloud of smoke we leave the jetty and skip across the calm waters of Luperon bay to find "The Odyssey" waiting serenely at anchor for us. On board we find ourselves on a blokes boat, it's a bit of a mess to tell the truth and badly needs a womans touch, and a good bit of spit and polish. Anyway we're hardly going to be below so what the heck, we're here to learn to sail, and what we can see, and understand the bits that make the boat go are all there and Ray exudes an air of confidence that make us relaxed and ready to and learn to sail.
Ray shows us where the life jackets are, although we never put them on I'm reminded now, and showed us the toilet, which for some bizarre reason they call Head, and the rest of the downstairs stuff.
Once underway, Ray turns on his hand held GPS and gets out the chart. His chart for Luperon bay is an A4 copy given to him by a friend in Luperon which, although the course is clearly marked, it's relation to the shore is a little unclear to me. However there are, what they call waypoints, which are marked on a map of the sea and correspond to degrees of longitude and latitude. North to south lines go one way and the others go around the circumference, listen to me with me long words, they both represent 360 degees of a circle, and I remember being taught about that in school 50 years ago, and now I get to use it. A GPS can pinpoint where you are at sea to within a yard. So looking at the readout on his GPS Ray is confident that we're on course and we putter out towards the mouth of the Bay, and out to sea. The waypoints, scribbled in biro on the "chart" proved to be fine. In my RYA dayskipper manual Ive read up on the international rules of the bouying systems,for harbors, and expected the same, or if not a little like it here. But when you leave Luperon there are no bouys. So these waypoints are crucial to the sailors, especially leaving and entering harbour. Ray has put Barry on the tiller, and Barry is not the quickest of wits, and once or twice on the way out we had Ray chastising Barry for his heading skills, and his confusion in picking out transits, or landmarks as your landlubber would call them. Besides the GPS Ray has a bit of kit made by "Garmin" which I recognize from our Largs start yachting course. It tells you your depth and speed, unfortunately, this one is displaying no digits where it says speed, Ray has still to figure out how make that work, but he can get that from the GPS if he needs to. Cool, and those other three instruments that don't seem to be moving, oh that's the wind speed, but it's broken, the wind direction, is also not working plus another dial that stayed static. This made up the electronics of the Odyssey, although we did have a VHF radio that now and then would crackle into life, but only when someone in Luperon bay was organizing another sailors party so we paid it no attention. The seas off the North coast of DR are often rough but today is just a pleasent 3 to 4ft swell and a good stiff inshore breeze. Lets go sailing.