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Saturday, 12 December 2009

Goosewinged and guitarless in Luperon

Tom runs the marine outfitters store at Puerta Blanca "marina", although I think you can only buy Snickers bars there. He's a sort of friend of Rays and he has a solid dingy that doesn't need pumping up at all. He will be our agua gua gua this morning, and with seven us in what should be a four man dingy, we're a little low in the water. There's just a hint of chop on the surface this morning, but as Tom takes it slowly we make Odyessy completely dry (not quite but I'm not complaining) and climb aboard.
It's a perfect morning for sailing, the sun shines in a cloudless sky and in Luperon bay there's a slight breeze. We take off the sail cover and attach the shackle of the main halyard to the peak of the mainsail, start the engine and cast off from the mooring. I take the helm and steer our now familiar course pass the boats at anchor on the far side of the bay heading for the tricky entrance where we've run aground twice already. Ray tells me to pass close to the anchored boats keeping them to starboard, although watching the depth gauge slip quickly from 13ft to 10 then suddenly to 6ft we bump to a halt. Grounded yet again, we should have kept the boats to port, as we're leaving at low water. Whoops, we may need our Irishman again, but Ray throws her into reverse and we slide free.
At the bay entrance we spot two new marker posts that have appeared, mysteriously, but not trusting them we pick our own course gingerly out to sea. This time we get through without incident.
Even out on the Ocean the seas are fairly flat but theres enough breeze to sail and soon the sails are set and we head towards El Castillo. Martin wants to find a bay where we can swim but we will have to sail down wind to get there. We unfurl the jib and set the sails in a goosewing, that is when you have the main sail on one side of the boat and the jib furled on the other. This turns out to be a difficult sail as the wind is behind us but the swell is coming on the starboard beam, or right hand side. The Jib fills with wind and loses the wind constantly causing it to flap furiously and then snap full. We sail like this for at least a couple of hours making very slow progress. Me and Jackie take turns at the helm, but progress is slow. Funny I thought with the wind behind us we would be going fast but it's not the case. Ray checks the chart against the GPS and reckons we're not going to have enough time to do this trip so we all agree to return to Luperon instead. By this time the wind has picked up considerably and so have the seas. We spend the next three hours making long tacks against the wind to get back to base. All this tacking involves lots of resetting of sails which is great practice, and I start to get a real feel for helming the boat and getting the best speed whilst sailing as close to the wind as I can. By the end of today I'm feeling that I'm starting to really understand how to sail. By the time we get close to Luperon the seas are quite big, no breaking waves but never the less quite challenging, Windermere and Morecambe bay will seem tame to this. Having this experience should be excellent grounding when we get back to England and start our Day skipper course.
Ray takes over for the entrance into the bay, and with the tide now high we have an incident free end to our day. We flake the sails put on the cover and Tom comes out to pick us all up and take us back to the marina.
Of course there had to be an incident, this is sailing with Ray after all. Ray had come down to the marina in his car, and in the back he had my guitar and his dog. When we arrived back at puerta blanca there is no car to be seen. It seemed that his sail boat buddy Jerome, had borrowed it to take his wife to Puerta Plata airport for a 5.30pm flight. He won't be back till at least 7pm and Martin and Suzy want to be back before dark. The easy solution would be for us to meet Jerome on the way but as is always the case with Ray, bless his soul, nothings that easy. Jerome doesn't have a mobile phone, everybody on this island has a mobile phone, but not Jerome. The only solution is for Ray to come and pay us a visit tomorrow and return my guitar. He has to go into Puerta Plata for a, lets just say, a delicate medical test, tomorrow and it will give him a chance to show Barry another side to Dom Rep.
Sure enough they arrive next day with my guitar, but they've had trouble with the radiator over heating and have had a precarious journey having to constantly stop to top up the radiator. He'll get back OK he reckons if they take it easy. Oh well what more could we expect, only to say that sailing with Ray has been an incident filled adventure and one that we will remember with much affection, for him, Barry man, and the sailboat Odyssey. Tomorrow we fly back to the UK with a wealth of experience and a thirst for the next chapter in our sailing story.