Sometimes going from point A to point B is not even close to a straight line! Our intention was to go from San Andres (a small island off the coast of Nicaragua that belongs to Colombia) to the Dominican Republic or Jamaica if necessary, then hop along the southern coasts of the DR to Puerto Rico and beyond. We checked out of Colombia November 1st with a zarpe stating our next port of entry would be the Dominican Republic and got underway.
We headed east hoping to avoid a counter-current and reach some southeasterly winds to head to the DR. It seems the weather had other intentions. The weather in the northwestern Caribbean was squally and northerly winds were blowing. This put the wind on the nose with rough seas if we wanted to head north. However, in the Southern Caribbean the wind was light with flat seas and when the trades filled in the forecast was for southeast wind. We decided to head out of San Andres and motor sail due east while the winds were light setting up a nice reach to the Dominican Republic when they filled in. We checked in with Caribbean weather guru Chris Parker by radio each morning and evening for a weather report and his advice on what weather was coming.
We made nice progress for a couple of days but the forecast changed and now the trades were going to be out of the northeast turning our nice reach into a beat right into the wind. We decided to head for Santa Marta, Colombia and wait for better weather. The last night the wind filled in and we bashed into a steep, short sea so we were very happy when we made port and in a slip in the marina in Santa Marta. Four days after departing Colombia we returned to Colombia – no big deal right? WRONG! It seems Colombia or at least Santa Marta customs and immigration was not at all happy with a Zarpe saying we were going to the DR and here we were in their backyard. A few extra “tips” to a few extra “officials” and we were checked back into Colombia.
As we tied Mermaid to the dock we noticed Second Wind, friends we hadn’t seen in quite a while two slips down. We took a picture and posted it on Facebook. Much to our surprise, Roger and Susan were aboard. We all had a good visit and spent the next week or so enjoying the lovely town of Santa Marta waiting for favorable weather to head north. We walked to town in the evenings enjoying mojitos, good food and people watching around the town square. We spent the days working on boat projects, combing the town looking for parts and provisioning.
After about a week a weather window to head north formed. We fueled up, checked out of the country and headed to Puerto Rico. The first night was not fun! The Caribbean coast of Columbia is notoriously windy with the highest wind between 2:00 and 6:00 am. By Colombian standards what we got was mild but we still had big square seas with a gusty wind right on the nose for several hours. By morning things had calmed down and we continued motor sailing east in mild conditions, rounding Cabo Vela the evening of the second day. That evening the forecast for the southerly winds were were hoping for changed to easterly. If the south easterlies didn’t materialize we decided to head for Bonaire and wait. Bonaire looked like a place we would like with clear water and great snorkeling. We were actually looking forward to it. Meanwhile, we kept going east passing about 10 mile north of Aruba where we realized that a cruise ship that was passing us didn’t have their AIS on to identify them. We were only about 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela, not a safe area so we decided to turn ours off as well. That evening the winds filled in from the southeast. We were looking forward to Bonaire but realized if we stopped there may not be another window to cross and it would put us in PR late in the season.
So, we turned left, waved at Bonaire and headed to Puerto Rico. We had a great sail through the night with Mermaid galloping along at 8.5 knots but that didn’t last. The next day was ugly. It was squally with no wind between the squalls and the wind in the squalls was unpredictable. Sometimes the squalls literally were black when we entered them and calm as we passed under them. Other times they didn’t look so bad and would suddenly hit us with 35 knot gusts of winds with driving rain for long periods of time. They really kept us on our toes!
As we approached the entrance to Ponce, Puerto Rico in the early hours of the morning, one last squall passed behind us and gave us a beautiful rainbow. We decided this had to be a good omen!