On the Water and In the Water…

It is a respect that you develop with the ocean and deep waters as you travel by boat from continents to islands in the manner we have. We have been in waters so deep our depth sounder doesn’t compute (fathoms it says, on the Raymarine screen) crossing the Gulf Stream and making our way off the banks of the Turks and Caicos islands to within a mile of the Dominican Republic shoreline. And we have unfortunately been in waters so shallow that the muck below grabs onto the keel like an octopus until we overcome the suction force with engine power (happened on our way into Bahia de Luperon, briefly, no damage, and quite humbling). We have swam in waters at 60 ft that with each kick of the fins you gain 3 – 5 ft against the current and relax when propelled by the same, and then float in surface waters that are so warm and silent and relaxing to the inner soul. In our travels, there are waters so crystal you can see the ripples of the sand 10-15 ft below. Therefore I am watch person in these waters for coral heads that sneak up on us from the depths and threaten to catch the keel. They are not as gentle as the muck and sand, we have no first hand experience, but have heard and read that they stretch like stalagmites with claws that take out sections of fiberglass when encountered.
We are smart on the water, watching the course of the water for direction and surface current as to not be caught off guard, whether entering from the beach or the boat. Balancing our moves on deck whether the boat is moving or anchored is important. Most of the waters we have encountered are clear and refreshing until this week in Luperon Harbor. However a safety location as well as a town with wonderfully helpful inhabitants, the harbor waters themselves are well, filthy. The outer beaches of open ocean are beautiful, but we have been warned about the constrained waters of the harbor as being contaminated with garbage and waste. As one enters the harbor, the color of the water changes from blue to green blue. In all my reading, I expected a deeper brown color and odor. None of that exists. So we are no longer in waters where a brief dip off the boat in the afternoon or evening are luxury. Showers are done on the transom or in the cockpit or shower aboard. That is fine….we have an incredibly safe location with the most awesome view of the mountains and hills of the DR into the tropical waters of the Caribbean.
Our second day in Luperon Harbor and we had made our trip to customs , immigration, agriculture and port authority. We paid out our pesos at each stop. Following which, we ventured into town for a look and to get a few fresh vegetables from the small individual markets along the streetside. We had run into a local fellow selling the services of the local talent: divers, laundry, taxi services, boat cleaners, car and scooter rentals. He wanted us to use him as a type of middle man for our needs. We walked with him in the pouring rain a few blocks to get a map, (he had an umbrella, we did not, he was not sharing) which he didn’t produce, but were introduced to his sister selling jewelry, and he wanted us to buy hand painted t-shirts done by his cousin. The pressure was on. We were savvy sailors and had read all about this tactic. We kindly declined and left with smiles and thanks for the opportunity. We made a bee-line for the dinghy to return to the boat for dinner as we had seen dark clouds approaching. We were within a quarter mile of the dock when a squall hit. We were immediately pelted by rain and 20 knot winds. We took on our adversary faces down with each step. The initial blow steadily weakened to a downpour. All we could think of was getting out of the wet clothes back on the boat.
I approached the dinghy to unlock the line. As I was proceeding to put the key in the lock, and over the heavy patter of the rain and whipping wind I heard a sound of a person to my back that wasn’t normal….then a slight splash. As I turned ,I saw Mike slipping into the water ( almost in slow motion) off the hurricane damaged dock. You see, the dock lay twisted half in and half out of the water along the one side. We had not had a problem with footing on a dry dock upon arrival. My first instinct was to try to retrieve the wet bag with our computer and phones, but as I took an initial step from unlocking the dinghy, I found myself literally upended and off my feet sliding as well into the dark waters. I think my bum hit the greasy edge of the green algae laden dock before I was fully submerged. There was initial moment of panic (or was it more disbelief that I had also befallen into the water!?), as there was no holding on the inclined slimy surface. I made one or two grasps of the flooded docking and couldn’t obtain a hold. The only way out I saw was to work my way toward shore where there was more of a horizontal holding, as I saw Mike scraping for some holding on the slimy surface of dock before us. My thoughts raced…how did this happen?….how did I make the mistake of slipping in as well? As I pulled myself onto the dock like a seal,(quite un-lady like, but life-savingly effective) sopping wet, grabbing the wet bag with our possessions. As Mike hoisted himself out just as wet, we were careful with our footing now…I realized we didn’t lose a shoe. What a crazy thought ! How do you hold on to 2 crocs and 2 flip flops sliding off a 45 degree incline? It was then that the hilarious nature of the event set in. Of all the waters on our voyage we had made special effort to avoid, we had now entered. What made this worse was the day before we had been returning to the boat by dinghy and the motor gave out. We found an oil laden shirt wrapped around the prop..giving us first hand knowledge of the filth in the harbor. Laughter ensued, mine. We had slipped into the abyss of filth in the most comical manner. I was sure we could have wont the “un mil” on funniest home videos for this. As we motored away, watching the skewed dangerous dock, I wanted to warn others. I had no way. Would they take care? Would they avoid the slimy side of the dock? Had this happened before? Were we the first ones?
We wanted fresh water. Returning to the boat, we were again laden with fresh water rain….a godsend… but quickly secured the dinghy and had the transom shower ready. We were relieved after stripping of the soaked clothing, washing our faces and scrubbing hands. My thoughts reflected the decontamination procedures at the hospital I had learned in the event of a chemical exposure. We had sustained a few abrasions and mild lacerations to the hands scraping for survival, but we cleaned those very well. We continued to replay the event and laughed to tears throughout the night. Two eager Midwest born sailors finding themselves IN foreign waters.


2 thoughts on “On the Water and In the Water…

  1. wsusoreny

    Wow!! Glad you both are ok! That is disgusting to encounter! I remember when I was in Hong Kong and took the weekend to explore. There was a beach along the Red Sea that was filthy! It was so gross and junky, I honestly wouldn’t even put my door into the water!

    You’re writing is very good by the way! Dave and enjoy reading your travels!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Leah and Dave

    What an adventure!
    We are so glad you were not harmed and that you are safe and seemingly, ok!
    Take care and hopefully we will meet up with you in the future.


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