After two weeks however we, and about 8 other boats were ready to move on. The first week was a no brainer as the trades were blowing 20+ out of the east every day. In day trips to the mountains around Luperon and to Puerto Plata we had a great view of the rough seas that are common on the north coast due to the strong trade winds. As we spent more time there we could see how the wind patterns shifted throughout the day and Van Sant's tirades in his book made more and more sense. In the second week of our stay we met almost daily at the marina and began to focus on a set of dates where the forecasts were showing a lightening and changing of the winds and a chance to escape our sanctuary. April 5 became our departure date, not withstanding the changes that could happen with the fickle weather of this area.
Sunday April 3rd we got a chance to meet Bruce Van Sant, he now lives in Sosua for medical reasons but comes to Puerto Blanco, Luperon to catch up with friends. We had a nice conversation and he signed our well worn book. Luckily we had his latest edition.
April 4 we met with the local Commandante (Head of the Port) to begin the negotiations for a despachio or "permission" to leave the port and venture to another port. Whether the purpose is to control movement along the DR coast, especially in light of Haitian immigration, or just an opportunity to extort monies form cruising sailboats you are not allowed to move from port to port without paperwork. In this case I had to go up to the Commandante's office at the public pier and meet with his assistant, someone from Drug Enforcement, someone from Naval Intelligence, Customs and a host of others that were just standing around.
There was a lot of brow beating, hem-hawing and some level of spanish and english and in the end the drug enforcement guy wanted to inspect the boat. I said let's do it, I have a truck waiting on me and we are tied up at the marina, he backed down, they signed the papers and no money changed hands!
We met up later with Mauricio on his property for Kaylee to meet his son Sebastian and they swam off the cliffs and hiked the trails. It was a lot of fun but made for a late night and an earlier morning to prepare to leave.
The parade left Luperon in single file and we had just turned the corner to head east on rolling 5 to 6' swells but calm sea. We realized Exit Stage Left had come to a stop and the radio chatter began. They had evidently not tightened their anchor windless after lifting their dinghy to the deck and the anchor had jumped the bow frame and fell overboard carrying a rocna and 150' of chain in 1000'+ of water less than a mile from the Luperon channel. Pepper had run over to a couple of fishermen in a small boat who came over to help retrieve the ground tackle which turned out to be unrecoverable and was cut loose to protect the boat and crew. A couple of the boats that were circling had to leave as their crews were getting seasick in the large swells. We continued to make way into the swells at about 2 to 3 kts to keep Danielle and Kaylee on an even keel. I would have hated to see them sick so soon in the day and a half long trip that was to follow. We where close enough to help if there was anything we could do. After about an hour, with the ground tackle lost everyone was back on course.
Winds picked up and shifted around 1 pm and we were able to hoist sails and flew across the top of the DR for the next 8 or so hours, doing 6+ on a very comfortable sail. We had to tack near Rio San Juan to go around the headland and then winds slowly died but we could continue to motor sail through the night. Danielle took a long shift. I awoke around 4 am as we began to pass around Cabo Cabron and Punta Tibisi at the northeast corner of the DR. It was a very clear night, lots of stars and moon to backlight the cliffs. Luckily the winds totally died and we motored around this pretty notorious area without incident. We also got a great look at the Southern Cross for the first time on our trip.
Kaylee was up early as we passed the high cliffs along the east coast of the DR moving towards Samana Bay. We still had large swells, coming from multiple directions and even Kaylee could tell that this was a pretty confusing place. We could only imagine what it would be like in 15 and higher winds, hence the patience on weather windows.