Sailing Thornlessly

Janine: Well, it’s hard to believe that over a month has passed since my last post.  I blame lack of hardware (my laptop charger died), strong willed children competing aggressively for available devices (now limited to Pete’s laptop), and so much to do during the days that after the ritual sundown drink, jumping on a lap top to blog is really the last thing on my mind (and with dinner and kids bedtimes still keeping us on the go!).  So much for my pre-trip visions of sitting on the deck at night tapping quietly away (and the other one of 5 am pre-dawn starts, which also included 30 minutes of yoga – I was definitely dreaming with that one!).

Whilst I’m still setting the blog date to the dates of our trip, I’m writing this in a beautiful harbour called Salinas in Puerto Rico and it’s 6 pm on a Sunday evening (18th June).  Music is drifting across the harbour from a very lively restaurant, and the evening speed boats who pass by and sticky-beak at all the sailing boats, with their extremely loud Latin music blaring out (loud enough to compete with a Livid concert) have yet to start their evening beat!  So, now the scene is set I’ll continue the journey from the last post when we were still based at Luperon, in the Dominican Republic:

We’d just got back from our 3-night inland trip to the mountains and Puerto Plata – here are some photos that I didn’t post from the old town where General Luperon once resided.  It was very pretty, complete with a beautiful fort, cathedral, museums and square covered in pigeons (I hope I got the boys to wash their hands after their 45 minute frenzy of feeding and having them sit on their heads!)


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Ben and Tom had to be dragged away from feeding the pigeons!


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Heading out to dinner after a long day travel from the mountains


Sorry about the blurry photo – it was to protect the identity of the Bad Haircuts. The restaurant had such a nice setting


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View from the fort at Puerto Plata, whilst it looks so calm the trade winds were definitely blowing!

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Max in front of General Luperon’s statue


Pete was convinced we would all have food poisoning after these hand shaved ice slushies – luckily he was wrong!

Once back in Luperon the weather window we had been waiting for had finally arrived, and we were about to start a part of our journey that would require us to sail in short hops down the coast, either by sailing overnight, or by leaving in the very early hours of the morning.  This would enable us to take advantage of the night lee affect which has a sea breeze coming of the land, and smooth waters, verses a sail during the day which would most likely have us heading directly into the trade winds that belt in from that Atlantic at upwards of 20 knots – not very pleasant.  This approach (sailing in the night lee) is known as sailing ‘Thornlessly’ – almost all the cruising boats we have met (along with us) all refer to a cruising guide called “The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South – the Thornless Path To Windward” by Bruce Van Sant, where he describes two ways of sailing from the east coast of the US down to the Caribbean, either by taking the Thorny Path – a way of passage making to windward (into the wind) which ‘tries the soul as well as the boat’ (interpret bashing head on into the seas and making very slow progress), or by taking the  Thornless Path – a way of passage making to windward which ‘creates a delightful, relaxed experience’ (interpret, smooth night sail in calm conditions, and a relax during the day in a safe anchorage protected from the easterly trade winds).

With this in mind, we left Luperon in the late afternoon, with a plan to sail overnight and arrive at a harbour called Escondido, hopefully around lunch time.  We could have done this leg of the trip in a couple of smaller hops, however the weather was good and whilst we didn’t make our destination till 5pm the next day, our progress had been steady and the swells not too great.  Unfortunately, despite the good weather, Max suffered another bout of sea-sickness that had him hiding in his cabin, refusing to come out, despite it being the worst place to be when the boat is moving!

Escondido was almost like a cross between a Norwejian fjord, and the islands of Phuket in Thailand.  Towering mountains with circling pterodactyls, a beautiful beach with what look like a beach bar was our vista from our slightly rolly anchorage, about 50 metres off the beach.  Unfortunately, due to the restrictions around sailing in the DR, we were not allowed to get off the boat until our next official anchorage, so we had to enjoy the view from the cockpit!

The next morning, we planned at 4am start for the second leg of the trip down to Samana, where we were very much looking forward to staying in the Bahia Marina, famous amongst cruisers for its multiple infinity pools, gym, restaurants, laundry (always a priority) and $40 a night marina berths!  As luck would have it, it was at that point our starter motor finally died.  It had been sending hints our way on many occasions, refusing to start unless Pete hit is with a hammer, however today, no amount of tapping, banging or thumping did the trick.  It was truly kaput!

So, after 2 hours, we hoisted the sails, and had the dinghy ready to push us out of the harbour away from the towering cliffs if need by.  The wind was very slight, and it was quite scary to not have the backup of the engine.  Thankfully, we only had to use the dinghy once to keep us moving in the right direction.

As it turned out, we ended up having the best sail of the trip so far, although did not arrive into Samana until around 3pm, 36 hours later.  We anchored outside, and Pete went into the marina, where a number of the cruisers and the marina staff all helped us bring the boat in (with the boys and I happily watching from the marina pontoons).  With so many helping hands, the manoeuvre was done effortlessly and we all breathed a sigh of relief!


Samana resort pool, overlooking the bay!


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2 Responses to Sailing Thornlessly

  1. Lara Crockford says:

    I was wondering what happened to you guys! I thought you had decided to go completely off grid for a while. The trip sounds incredible and it looks like you have seen some great local spots which tourists never get to. I always look forward to reading your blog and looking at the pictures. I wish we were sharing this adventure with you.


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