28 February 2012

... from bad to worse

We left Cabo Rojo a day later as planned for Las Salinas (see the Despacho Story) as we knew the weather would get worse. Being careful (as I had to promise to my father- in-law) we checked the forecast in detail - asked for particular route advice. The paid forecaster (or in this case his stand-in) said something about 15 knots. OK for us so we left with another boat.

Till the Isla Beata Channel it was fine – a bit more wind (up to 20 knots) but we had an amazing sail. Just under Stay (a very small headsail) and a highly reefed main we made continuously over 6 knots. Heading into the channel we had to use the engine for a few hours. It went a bit worse as we had the wind straight into the face but manageable. The channel itself was even calmer. Until we crossed it...

That was probably the time when our weather forecaster sent us a personal Email (he never did that before!!) to warn us about the conditions - contrary to his stand-in we talked to before we left. But since we have no Email underway we never saw it until a day later. And if we had Email we would never have been able to read it. I spare you the full forecast, just some lines (and I quote): "Goes from bad to much worse" and "to make matters worse… a nasty tropical wave may move along SE" and so on...This time the forecast was correct: At 19:00h the wind gushed up to steady 25 knots gusting 30 knots against us. This alone would be OK. The waves were the real killing factor. Instead of 6 feet (2m) we had continuously higher waves than 12 feet (3m) - against us or from the side. To express this in the most polite words possible: It really sucks on a sailboat!

During the night things went worse: The other sailboat changed plans - we could not really understand them over the radio where they seeked shelter as it was simply too windy. We changed our plans as well and headed to Barahona - a harbor much closer, around 40 miles. Normally we would do that in 6 - 8 hours. But even with full throttle and the reefed main up we hardly did more than 2 knots. 20 hours or more to go in this boiling sea! Even most of our stuff was secured, it was so bouncy that the cabin turned into a mess within minutes, several items were flying around (but nothing broke). To give you an impression of the wave height: you could not see the moon all the time - sometimes it despaired behind mountains of water. Within one hour all three of us (Rahel, Habibi and myself) have been completely encrusted with a thick layer of salt from the sea spray. Not nice either.

To shorten the story up: We made it safely to Barahona by the next afternoon as we could speed up a bit in the early morning. Funny wise no one of us was scared at any time. You could feel that Habibi with her traditional full keel was very stable and safe. Having a staysail has proofed to be a valuable asset in heavy winds as well. But it’s not comfortable at all - and that’s probably the biggest understatement ever: At nights like this you ask yourself "why am I doing this shit?"

At the end, as fast it comes as fast it goes. We already laughed and joked by the time we were in the harbor entrance: I guess it’s some Caribbean thinking: Don't bother about the past: Look the sun is shining and the people are amazing - what was it again I was swearing about yesterday...?


  1. Wow, sorry you had such a rough run. It's amazing how fast you forget those conditions when you pull into a safe harbor, isn't it? Be safe.

  2. I am so glad our good girl Habibi took care of you. I must say I am very proud of all three of you!