Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Port Antonio Jamaica to Bahia de las Aguilas, Dominican Republic


An Eye to the Weather

After a long spell of unusually calm weather during the time we land travelled Jamaica and finished boat projects the weather was suddenly forecast to revert to the seasonal Christmas winds which are strong trade winds and squalls out of the north east.  Two boats, s/v Pepper with Hatty and Phil out of Great Britain and the family catamaran s/v Tribe with Yogi, Steve, Kao and Kikko out of the US were both meeting family arriving into Puerto Rico and St Croix respectively and decided to run towards the weather. Tribe made it to St Croix to meet their son/older brother who at 18 was sailing his own boat from the Mediterranean to St Croix with some friends. A proud mother and father were not going to be stopped by a little wind! Pepper stopped in Salinas, DR with high winds keeping them on the boat at anchor for a few days. They were then held waiting for a clearance zarpe even after the passing weather had dissipated because the Guerra Naval felt it was still too windy for them to leave. Pepper did finally make it to Puerto Rico to meet their incoming sons.
Mast head shot of boats waiting for the next weather window, Nychea and Contigo in center,
M/V's Blessed and Figment top of frame.

The remaining Cruisers prowled the docks of Errol Flynn Marina stopping to discuss the latest forecasts and trying to interpret the most recent graphics. Two Dutch boats, one with Rick who we first met last year in Cuba, were planning to head east around Jamaica and then south west to the Caymans and Panama. Jill and Tony on s/v Nychea  and Gabi with Chris crewing on his boat were heading north through the Windward Passage and on to the Bahamas. And finally, two America boats with John, Lyn, Amanda and Alberto on m/v Blessed, Don and Jan on m/v Figment and Mags and I on Kanilela heading east into the wind and waves.  Just before the weather arrived, Conor and Karl, a lovely young couple on s/v  Contigo, arrived in from Ile a Vache, Haiti. They were incredibly interesting people with a wealth of information about our prospective destinations. Several great conversations ensued while we discussed respective plans, both short term and long term as well as the state of the world.

A brief weather window opened and within 24 hours we had all departed, saying goodbye to Conor and Karl and Canadian Ken who were staying longer. Hopefully we will see them again.
It took me a long time to say goodbye to all the wandering 
goat friends I made in Port Antonio.....

We left Port Antonio at about 10:30 am with the option of stopping in Ile a Vache, Haiti in 150 nm or on to Bahia de las Aguilas, Dominican Republic about 260 nm. The winds were gusting in the high teens, low twenties and the seas that had not yet subsided very much were running with peaks in the 3 to 4 meter height, both directly on the nose. Fortunately part of our routine is that we check the engine room regularly and after a couple of hours Mags reported water pouring in at the propeller shaft. A quick examination revealed the clamp that holds the hose joining the shaft log to the stuffing box had failed letting the stuffing box slide away resulting in water pouring in. Mags pumped the bilge while I collected tools and a clamp to make a quick repair. By the time the stuffing box was repaired the bilge pump had cut out so Mags completed pumping the bilge with the emergency manual bilge pump which worked fine. We located the problem with the bilge pump as an electrical connection that had been pulled apart during the stuffing box repair and fixed that only to start having problems with water and sludge plugging the fuel filters after thrashing around in the adverse wind and waves.

I had drained the fuel tank during our haul out but there was still a vee at the bottom of the tank that had not been flushed. Our fuel filtering consists of a 10 mic Racor, a 2 mic Racor and finally the factory spec’d Yanmar filter. Initially, draining and recharging the 10 mic with the clean day tank fuel and after about ten minutes switching back to the main tank permitted us several hours of running. Finally the filter was so fouled that I replaced it. Although we had several 2 mic filters I soon was down to my last 10 mic. After about 28 hours of travel we were stopped off the coast of Haiti about five miles from the entrance to Ile a Vache while I added clean diesel manually, one gallon at a time to the day tank. There is no access to the day tank from above. It is situated in the engine room with about six inches of space above and is usually filled by transfer pump up from the main tank. The transfer line does have a 30mic Racor 500 but the diesel in the main was so fouled that I did not want to risk fouling the day tank as well so the only solution was using a one gallon oil container pouring on the flat into the day tank while standing on the hot engine in rolling seas. Not good. I managed to put six gallons clean diesel from our spare five gallon containers and probably lost an equivalent volume of sweat while doing it.

The winds had dropped as predicted and the seas were down to about two meters so we could have sailed slowly north to Haiti but there would be no source for filters and from what we had heard we would be constantly visited with requests for work, money or candy depending on the age of the visitor, giving no freedom to get some much needed sleep. We decided to keep motor sailing the next 110 miles to Bahia de las Aguilas.

As I have often said, cruising is doing boat repairs in exotic locations and this trip was no exception. During the night the auto pilot quit. After chasing power supply circuits and checking connections and fuses I found a fuse holder that was melted. Interestingly, the 10 amp fuse was still good but the factory sealed wiring to the fuse holder must have been poorly made causing the connection to overheat and melt the housing. After repairs were completed we were on our way again.

At 12:45 pm on the third day after countless hours in the hot engine room draining the filters too many times to have an accurate count we finally dropped anchor in 10 feet of water, sand bottom. Our first transit cruise of the 2020 season was finally at an end. The beauty of the Caribbean is the shallow anchorages with warm water that you can dive into and check your anchor. Bahia de las Aguilas is an uninhabited bay with no access roads. The silence was deafening. And so to sleep.

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