We spent 10 days in the South Side Marina at Provo TCI enjoying the wonderful hospitality of Simon and Charlynn. We were waiting for a good weather window for the long trip to the Dominican Republic. Our wait paid off. Simon gave us waypoints for the trip from Provo to Ambergris Cay then through the reefs and off the Caicos Banks to Big Sand Cay and then from there to a waypoint on the north shore of the DR near Luperon. The motorsail to Ambergris was a little rough with choppy seas and winds 15 to 19 but we were safely anchored in good sand near the north end of Ambergris by 3:30 pm and enjoying a nice quiet afternoon and evening. The key to this trip is to leave Provo very early, just after daybreak that gets you to Ambergris in good light for dodging the numerous coral heads along the way and the clusters of elkhorn coral to the west of Ambergris. Van Sant is very clear about leaving early and his advice is very sound.
The next morning, we programed in Simon's waypoints and started out for Big Sand. Making it through the reef north of Ambergris is quite an experience. Simon recommended that someone take a watch at the bow to look for the coral so Marlene went forward and grabbed the headsail. The visibility wasn't too bad as we headed north, but then we made a turn to the east and the early morning sun turned the water silver. Steep short waves caused by the Caicos Bank turned Marlene's time at the bow into a wild ride. She hung on for dear life as we spent the next hour navigating through the reef even though we couldn't see a thing. Simon's waypoints were on the mark and we obviously had some help from above. Finally, Marlene was able to make her way back into the cockpit, her wild roller coaster ride was over and she was happy.
The motorsail to Big Sand was supposed to take 4 hours, but because of the 17 knot winds and choppy seas on our bow, it took 6 hours. Not too nice but then the anchorage at Big Sand was beautiful and calm. We went ashore and did some swimming and beach combing. The wind and waves started calming down. About 4:00 pm we saw a boat coming in from the south. I hailed her and found out it was Oasis a catamaran that had just come from Luperon. He told me that the seas were not bad with some 6 ft. rollers and winds under 20 knots. We decided to go for it and were underway by 4:45.
The seas were a little rolly at first, but Van Sant warned us that the shoals to the south of Big Sand make that a little rougher than the rest of the passage. He was right, plus, the winds started dying down, by sunset we were in less that 12 knots of wind and 1.5 meter seas. It was a beautiful motor sail with a bright moon and steadily calming seas that made the 80 miles an easy ride to the DR. At daybreak we were just off the coast and the dreaded Muchoir passage looked like a mill pond. Since the water was so calm, we decided to make some extra way along the DR coast and headed for Ocean World Marina near Puerto Plata instead of going to Luperon. Ocean World is a blast, like Sea World with a marina. We have enjoyed our stay here very much, but it is expensive for the DR. Still, if you like dolphin shows, seal and sea lion shows and parrot shows, this is a great place. It was fun to be a tourist again and enjoy a respite from boat life. There is also a casino but as boat owners, we do all our gambling at sea and don't need to do any more on shore! Anyway, tomorrow we head for Samana and a jump across the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico. The weather window looks really good for this trip and we are looking forward to completing another of the difficult passages on our journey south.
Smooth Seas and Fair Winds to all