Category: Sailing from the Turks and Caicos to Dominican Republic

Our latest video aboard Rivers2Seas – a Modesitt Mirages Production

Leaving the Turks and Caicos at 4am proves easy.  Hoisting the mainsail and unfurling

Leaving Sapadillo Bay in the Turks and Caicos at sunrise

the jib gives us an average of 8 knots of speed.  Seas were large at 9 feet but manageable as they were on the back quarter.  The winds picked up throughout the day and so did the seas.  The Offshore Weather Report states that the significant wave height is the average height of the waves.  Actual height may be twice that – or more.  So with some waves topping 18 feet, some larger, winds topping out at 28 knots we were moving!  One reef in the main and two in the jib and we still managed to hit 11 knots.  Most of the time winds were at 20 knots and waves simply large but manageable.

Chase has been prone to seasickness all along so the fact that he woke up three hours into the trip ready to puke was no surprise.  When Lindsey went down I took

The seasick crew tries to rest

note.  When Ella, who has never come close to seasickness, threw up all over her feet and the cockpit I let off a little to get more of a following sea.  That just meant we surfed down some of these screamers – a little more disturbing for myself.  Chases favorite drink is blue Gatoraide.  He was quite excited later when he discovered that when it came back up it was still blue.  AND when you eat something yellow like crackers – blue and yellow make green.  Holy cow, what a lesson on colors.

It was right about this time that I ran across the cockpit with binoculars in hand to check on a suspicious boat bobbing, that I first slipped in a pile of puke.  Despite being a trained scientist, binoculars and microscopes have always made me nauseous.  So it must have been a miracle that I could even see the fishing trawler bobbing in these seas without getting sick.  It wasn’t fishing or moving and people were all about its decks.  As we sped by with sails blazing the captain hailed us on the VHF radio.  Responding to his call in Spanish we quickly changed to English.

They had been without power for 12 hours and had been drifting at sea in these bouncy seas.  At 73 feet long the vessel was fairing

The Fearful Captain

well.   The engines had overheated and now would not work.  Their generator had run out of fuel and they only had a limited amount of time left using the VHF.  Miss Kristy was motoring with cargo from Haiti to the Turks and Caicos.  They were in distress and requested that I call their master, Mr. Robinson or the United States Coast Guard.  Mr. Robinson wanted nothing to do with the issue.  The captain had told me that 14 people were aboard, but it may have been 140.  The language barrier and his distress made it difficult.  We couldn’t tow her and we didn’t really want 140 Haitian refuges onboard.

As I called the USCG on the satellite phone to initiate a rescue, the vastness of the sea overwhelmed me.  Seventy miles from the coast of Haiti might as well be a 1000.  With the seas rolling every which way, I could only make out the boat half the time.  The USCG took all the coordinates and information about Rivers2Seas.  The most difficult part was that I couldn’t find my own telephone number.  We ended the conversation so that I could relay the information to Miss Kristy.

location of the disabled vessel

Miss Kristy, Miss Kristy, Miss Kristy, Rivers2Seas…I have contacted the US Coast Guard and they are notifying the Haitian navy.”  I felt bad at this point.  Do the Haitians have a navy?  Would they care?  My answer came quickly.  An hour and twenty minutes after I notified the USCG, they had a helicopter hovering over the scene.  They dropped a canister onboard with a charged VHF marine radio to keep in contact with Miss Kristy.  A USCG cutter was underway to tow them ashore; it would arrive in 12 hours.  The helicopter hovered overhead for two hours then had to leave to refuel.  They would be back in two hours.  That’s the last we heard.

Taking your family into the open ocean is intimidating, overwhelming and just plain scary at times.  The what-ifs occupy your mind as you have nothing to do but think as your boat gets pounded by waves.  What if we need a rescue?  What if Ella or Chase goes overboard?  Knowing that there are men and women in the USCG who are trained to help in these situations is comforting.  Seeing them in action is wonderful.  Seeing our government help other nationalities is the best.  America has superb resources and it’s great to know that when called upon…America is up to the task.  I shall wear my orange shirts proudly thinking of our USCG.

I veered Rivers2Seas off a little more, shaken a bit by the experience, stirred a little bit by the vomit all over and the adrenaline dump knocking me out.  I had been at the wheel for seven and a half hours.  I tried to snuggle with Chase who wanted mom back and then with Ella who wouldn’t stop trying to wake me to play.  An hour later after my “refreshing” rest, it was back to the wheel.

Landfall in the Dominican Republic

Making landfall in the Dominican Republic at 10pm proved rough. We wouldn’t be able to anchor until sunrise.  We motored up the coast with the smell of cow dung and smoldering fires filling our nostrils.  To me, this mix of smells is so pleasant as it is the smell of developing countries and the wonderful people within.  We anchored at 9am in Rio San Juan, Dominican Republic.  This is not an official entry point and even if we had entered legally, we would not have permission to be here.  A 28-hour sail, puking kids, a seasick wife and myself exhausted we dropped anchor.

A half hour later, I was asleep; Lindsey was asleep and the kids were playing with trains.  That’s when a fisherman came by and said

getting ready to fish in the Dominican Republic

that we should move a couple hundred yards over because we would drag anchor.  We pulled up the anchor by hand moved Rivers2Seas over and then started our day…Life on a boat.

The local commandant visited us awhile later and wanted our papers, which we didn’t have.  Luckily, I speak Spanish and he was nice, but firm.  The kids help in these situations as does the remnants of vomit as you try to explain that you are exhausted from a rough day at sea.  As long as we left by midnight we were OK,  11pm would be better.  We left at 4am.  Which as I write this, sitting at the helm in a calm sea motoring back along the coast the world looks beautiful.  A large full orange moon is setting straight ahead dancing in and out of the clouds.  Lights from the coastline twinkle a mile off my port side.  The sun will rise in an hour or so to uncover towering mountains up to 10,000 feet high…Life on a boat.