Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Bahia de las Aguilas

Bahia de las Aguilas, to Marina Zarpar, Bocas Chica, Dominican Republic


Bahia de las Aguiles and on to Zarpar
The green line, Bahia de las Aguilas to Marina Zarpar
After a few hours of comatose-like sleep we took a look at our serene surroundings. Although there were no cruising boats at anchor there were a few groups of people on the beach and a couple of local pangas offshore waiting to shuttle the people back to their hotel around the point to the north. The white sand beach is more than a mile long and the few groups were well spaced so I am certain they felt the beach was theirs alone. The coast behind the beach had a dry vegetation with some cactus visible. A low rock cliff face rises to the plateau stretching out to the east, distinctly different than the lush greens of Jamaica.

We were visited by a young panga operator requesting a light for his cigarette. Mags gave him one of her lighters so he was smiling gratefully as he departed. On subsequent trips he made with tourists he waved happily and we heard him telling the passengers that we were “amigos Canadienses”. The tourists appeared to be local Dominicanos or possibly Dominicanos from the US who had returned for vacations.

We were anchored in about ten feet of water with great visibility. As it was a long sand beach area we did not expect much for snorkelling but we were pleasantly surprised. It was a mixed sand and sparse turtle grass bottom with several varieties of gobies, blennies, wrasses and other bottom fish swimming. It is always good seeing a healthy sea scape.

The anchorage was calm and the engine had cooled down so back on board I again filled the day tank with clean fuel and because I had no new 10 micron filters I put a 2 micron in instead. Sleep had been the one thing I really needed and Bahia de las Aguilas, Bay of Eagles, had provided that.

Awhile later in the day another panga operator was trying to load a family of about eight people and at least three generations onto his boat. The wind had come up and a small surf was building on the lee shore. The family was evidently not familiar with climbing over the gunnel of a boat and they were too slow for the operator to stay stern to the shore. The bow caught a wave, spun parallel and broached the panga. Everyone scrambled back to the beach and appeared quite useless as the poor operator struggled to gather the lifejackets that had washed up on the shore and get his boat off the beach. He managed to restart his engine but the panga was obviously riding low in the water. He gradually made for deeper water to be out of the breaking waves, eventually getting out to where we were anchored. Fortunately the space under the bench seats were sealed floatation chambers but the spaces between were full of water. He explained he had lost his bailer and hoped we could help. We always have several empty five liter water jugs for just that purpose so I cut the bottom out of one and in no time he had it bailed. He did not want me to use a bilge pump to help which may have been a lot to do with saving face. He was a nice guy and very grateful and agreed emphatically when I said the passengers had been “demasiado lento”, too slow when boarding the panga. The family did not re-board the panga and the operator eventually returned north in the direction of the hotel.

Still later that afternoon we were surprise to hear the first loud music from the beach. A 4 wheel drive SUV was at the shoreline with doors open, music blaring. It only lasted briefly and we were fairly certain that the “ship wrecked” family had requested a ride back rather than face the perils of the sea again. It was a decision they may have questioned because as we watched the SUV depart in the distance it climbed a very steep rough cut grade up to the plateau, bouncing its way up as it made the crest. I am sure the tourists had a great story of a near death experience when they returned to their homes.

Once again we were left to our solitude under a canopy of stars when night fell.
Cabo Beata

The following morning we were anchor stowed by 0900 hrs on a bright sunny day, winds under 5 knots with a slight swell. More motor sailing. By 1300 hrs we rounded Cape Beata passing through the shallow pass between Isla Beata and the Cape. This is the most southerly tip of Isla Hispanola, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and is noted for strong easterlies blowing through. On our starboard rested the rusting hulk of a large freight that had beached in a storm on Isla Beata. We were quite content with our benign conditions.

On east side of the cape were fifty plus wind turbines. It was good to see the wind energy being utilized. Rather than run north up the coast to either Bahone or up to Salinas we cut across the large bay on a direct course to Boca Chica because we knew there were boat supply stores and possibly we could get the fuel filters we needed. After a pleasant day motor sailing darkness fell and the lights on the distant north shore of Salinas and smaller towns became evident. The flashing red lights on the tops of wind turbines showed another large wind farm in the far off north-west.

Night time, perfect for more engine issues. At 1900 hrs we had to stop to clean the fuel filter again. This occurred four more times before dawn as we tried to glean more fuel from the main tank because our combined day tank and the remaining five gallon cans was not enough to reach the marina. I replaced the 2 micron and the last of the 10 microns with two new 2 microns and continued as the glow of the lights of Santo Domingo filled the sky. The frequency of passing freighters confirmed we were approaching the DR’s busiest port area. Dawn came slowly and with it the unearthly forms of the container cranes in Port Andreas emerged showing our destination. We wound our way past two container ships and up the shallow channel past Club Nautico. Our entry instructions were to stay as close to the docks of both marinas as possible because this is power boat country and deeper draft sailboats are challenged to enter. We made a 180 degree turn in the narrow space with an on shore wind and brought Kanilela gently to the dock.
Storm cloud over Marina Zarpar

Sleep beckoned but first we had to do our entry to the DR as this was our first official land fall. The immigration officer and the armada naval officer were both at the boat promptly but unfortunately could not begin until the customs and drug enforcement officers had arrived. After visiting with both of them, taxing my sleep deprived Spanish, the other two arrived about an hour later. The drug enforcement officer, in his blue jeans, loose fitting untucked shirt with a gun stuffed in the back of his belt and swagger to match the image had clearly watched too many Starskey and Hutch episodes. After he and the customs official had opened every floor board hatch, checked lockers under the berths and rifled through clothes storage a $20 consideration for the distance they had to travel was accepted as completion of the inspection. I have forgotten the official charge, possibly $65 total for the four departments. The marina staff and immigration and armada naval staff were extremely friendly and helpful.  Finally we were landed into the country and sleep won out.

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