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Friday, 11 December 2009

That sinking feeling

It's our last week here in the Dominican Republic and Suzy and Martin have suggested that we have a fun day out together. They have bought a second hand, but newish 4 x 4, and we're going to Luperon for another days sailing with Ray. As with all our adventures here, this one will have it's hiccups. On the way we stop for lunch at Colfresi, at a little beachfront restaraunt but when Suzy opens the car door to leave the alarm starts up and no amount of furiously pushing buttons on the key fob seems to make any difference. The alarm just keeps cycling through it's whoop whoop, wha wha, nee naw nee naw sequence. Martin is on the phone to the guy he bought it off when a young moto concho man comes to our rescue. He finds the wire to the alarm and pulls it off. The alarm stops, but the car still won't start. A few minutes later another young man on a motor cycle pulls up and reckons he's an electrico, and out of his rucksack produces a circuit tester. This looks promising, I think, although Martins not at all sure he wants a Dominican style fix to his new car. The electrico dives beneath the steering colums and yanks at something and suddenly all is now quiet, and he turns the key and starts the engine. Muchos gracias, we're out of trouble and on our way although 400 pesoes lighter, but we don't mind cause now we can get on with our "fun" day out.
We arrive at the Luperon yacht club at about 5pm, order a cerveza, and check on rooms but they've only one available. We phone Ray who's happy for me and Jackie to stay on his boat for the night and so we arrange to meet him in an hour at the puerta blanca "marina". The plan is that we will all be going to eat at Shaggies bar later, and being Wednesday there'll be a bit of a session going on. However this plan stumbles as Suzy and Martin don't fancy taking their new car into Luperon in the dark, and would prefer to have dinner at the yacht club and a quiet night. Ok, no problem, we say, we can take Rays dingy to the boat, drop our stuff and pop over the harbour to the town jetty which is just a stones throw from Shaggies bar. Well that's the plan.
Suzy and Martin drop us at puerta blanco with one overnight bag, a rucksack, a cool bag with wine and rum plus mixers,and a guitar in a flight case.
We find Ray pumping up the dingy, which as you may remember, has a slow puncture, but that's fine as it stays pumped up for a good few hours once inflated. We load all our gear into the dingy which makes for a tight squeeze for the crew of two but we're fine and I fire up the engine. By now it's completely dark but we've done this trip before, it'll take us about five minutes to reach Rays boat. Due to a minor problem, Ray's dingy engine has no neutral, and as soon as the engine kicks in we speed away from the key and wave farewell to Ray saying we'll meet him later at Shaggies.
Jackie is perched on the front and as the night is rather windy the bay is choppy and Jackie is catching the spray so I slow down as we pass the end of the jetty and turn but just then the engine dies. As I try to start restart it we're being blown back but it just won't fire. We have a small torch and I check the fuel, it seems full, but with the wind we're in all sorts of trouble so we take to the oars and paddle back to the jetty. I try the engine again and this time it starts and we're on our way, but again we only get as far as the end of the pier when it cuts out again. Now we're drifting underneath a big catermaran and only just manage to claw our way out and start back on the one
oar we have free. We're blown back again going in circles till the engine fires but within seconds stops. The other thing that we've now noticed is that the dingy seems to be deflating a lot faster than it had in previous trips. We aren't far from the jetty but we now seem to have no engine, are trying to steer with one oar, and we will soon be sailing in a deflated dingy. Better abandon this ship, and get back to the jetty pronto. We release the other oar, although Jackie is in no position to use it. We're not exactly panicking at this point but lets say nerves are a little frayed, and when Jackie asks which way she should row and I say "the right way", lets just say this doesn't ease the situation, but some how manage to make the end of the jetty. The problem here though is that the jetty is about 4ft high and we're heading under it. Somehow Jackie manages to heave herself out of a very floppy dingy and onto the floating pontoon whilst I hastily throw her our bags and the guitar. By the time I get out the dingy is about two thirds deflated, but at least we're back on dry land. It's been half an hour since we set off and we're back at the puerta blanca "marina"bar with a couple of stiff G&Ts. Tonight we won't be sleeping on the boat.