Barahona, Dominican Republic
This famously cantankerous, 80km-wide strait separates Cuba from Haiti (east-west), and the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea (north-south). The prevailing easterly trade winds, blowing in straight off the Atlantic, can kick up big swells and make for a very uncomfortable voyage.
As it turned out, on our first day we raised sails and actually turned the engines off. But it wasn’t long before it got windy and lumpy and we were back to motoring into headwinds. The first night was the worst: on Damian and my watch we were battering into 25-28 knots, rough seas and waves hitting the stern were splashing us at the helm station amidships.
The two nights, three days and 567 nautical miles of the trip are a bit of a blur: it was rough and windy. Enough said. We aimed to stay in international waters in the middle of the strait – to starboard lay Cuba (we passed close to Guantanamo Bay) and to port lay Haiti (cruiser scuttlebutt mutters about pirates and recent assaults on yachties).
We had a brief respite from the wind one hot midday, when we found ourselves in a field of fish traps – plastic water bottle buoys all over the place – tended by lone fishermen in tiny wooden skiffs powered by huge amounts of sail area relative to their size: they reminded me of the old 18-foot skiffs that sail on Sydney Harbour.
The contrast between the skiffs and the multi-million dollar gin palaces we’d been surrounded by a week previously; between the one of the world’s richest nations and one of its poorest, couldn’t have been more extreme.
Haiti’s western coastline is shaped like a huge fish tail: we rounded its southern point and motored straight into the teeth of the trade winds along the coast of Haiti until we crossed the border into the Dominican Republic and dropped anchor off the beach at the first available port of entry, Isla Beata.
Next day saw the worst leg of the trip so far: it took us 10 hours to cover 56 miles to Barahona on the coast of the Dominican Republic ‘mainland’, with strong headwinds and a nasty chop that kept thumping up under the bridge deck hard enough to make your teeth rattle.
Just on 1000 miles since Florida…
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