There’s no other way to put it, our passage from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico sucked. It wasn’t particularly dangerous or anything, it just sucked. We weren’t leaving with a great forecast, just a predicted lessening of the trade winds that might be slightly less terrible to motor into. And there were times when it was slightly less terrible, but it was two nights and three days of discomfort and lots of wishing we could stop or turn back. But having cleared out of the DR and without permission to anchor anywhere else along the country’s shores, we didn’t have a lot of good options but to continue on.
We were going as slow as ever, bashing into every wave, unable to sleep, and trying to keep the mainsail full by tacking up the course while we burned up our fuel. We were hoping to make it to St. John in the US Virgin Islands, then we were hoping to make it to San Juan on the north coast of Puerto Rico, then we ended up retracing about 20 miles in favor of a 90 degree turn toward the western shore of PR and Boqueron. Our meandering course at least kept us away from squalls and when we ran the fuel tank dry and the engine died, we felt fortunate that it was daylight, we were able to sail for a couple of hours, and we were 20 miles away from an easy entrance to Boqueron. We felt extra fortunate after we emptied our last fuel can into the tank and Jon looked in the engine compartment to discover a belt was about to break. If he didn’t have to bleed the fuel line after running out of diesel we would have overheated the engine when the belt, which was only hanging on by a few threads, broke. He replaced it as we drifted around becalmed, only three miles from shore. Then we motored into the harbor like we’d just had the most pleasant passage ever.
Although the trip sucked in general, we did see a humpback whale for the first time as we left Bahia Samana. It was probably half a mile away, but we could clearly see its huge tail splashing the water for a few minutes as it swam away from us. The next day when I was asleep in the cockpit and Jon was steering, he woke me up as another humpback surfaced just twenty yards away on our port side. Since no one yelled “thar she blows!” and I wasn’t wearing my glasses, I can only confirm that something huge and dark splashed right next to our boat and disappeared. Jon says the tail was almost as big as Baby Blue, but obviously it was just another alien mermaid playing Jedi mind tricks on him. If there were some kind of photographic evidence of this so called “whale” then maybe I could be convinced.
Speaking of Jedi mind tricks, we almost saved a sinking vessel the first night out of the DR. It was around 10pm, we were about five miles from the nearest shore, and Jon had just gone below to sleep. I had just raised the jib in the vain hope of making progress without the engine when out of nowhere I saw a light waving at me one hundred yards ahead. I hastily turned to maneuver us around what I guessed was a little fishing boat. Crisis averted. When I looked back in the direction of the little boat a couple minutes later, I saw the light was now under the water. I stared at it for a minute and thought to myself, oh my god, they weren’t signaling to make sure that I saw and could avoid them, but so that I would rescue them from their sinking ship! I yelled at Jon to wake up and showed him what I saw. We turned around and planned a careful approach, so that if it was a sinking ship below the surface we wouldn’t hit it and sink ourselves. We were about to be heroes. I got out the spotlight with THE POWER OF A MILLION CANDLES and accidently shined it right in Jon’s face when I connected it to the power source. He was now invigorated and fully awake, ready to come to the rescue of the poor drowning souls. I quickly redirected the spotlight toward the glowing under the water, only to see a handful of fishermen calmly seated in their tiny boat, very much afloat. I blinded the crap out of them, then we turned around and were on our way. I guess they were okay, just out in the ocean in the middle of the night with no navigation lights, fishing for squid or whatever.