Sailing the Caribbean

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My final excursion while in the Dominican Republic was a full day Catamaran excursion. Possibly the best part about this excursion was the fact that it departed from my resort’s beach, so I really didn’t have to displace myself too much in order to make it there on time at 8am. This was a good thing, because I was a little bit worn out from the Tuesday night activities. What were those activities you ask? Well, that was the night I met up with Penelope and Melissa at the beachside grill a la carte restaurant, after which I went to the casino night with Go Travel direct. That turned out to be pretty lame, so I ended up going back to the resort for the nightly show, which ended up being the light-bulb eating dude! That was a good call, and put me in the mood to have a few drinks while I watched. Anyway, long story short, I was definitely ready to hit the ocean the next morning, but not in the mood to join the ‘party’ aspect of the day. Yup, as might be expected, this was no ordinary catamaran. This was the party catamaran! Open bar all day long. However, I didn’t touch a drop till we were actually anchored back at our starting point late in the afternoon. I just couldn’t justify drinking all day. That and the fact that I didn’t know a single soul on the boat, since none of the people I’d met were on this excursion. However, it was still pretty cool. Read on for more.

The day broke clear and sunny, promising azure blue oceans and a deep blue sky. Plenty of sun, heat, and lots of reasons to jump off the boat into the cool water. The trip was to be a day-long thing, with the first part of the trip a motor from the beach at Playa Dorado along the coastline all the way to Sosua. The word is that Sosua boasts some pretty impressive snorkeling just off the beach. From my bike trip the day before, I didn’t know that at all. Sure, there were people in the water, but no flashing neon signs declaring “Swim here with a mask.. it’ll blow you away!”. I put my faith in the captain and crew, assuming they would only take us somewhere cool. As a result of the prevailing winds, the trip along the coast towards Sosua had to be carried out purely under the iron jib (motor). Yes, as the astute would point out, you can sail any direction you want by tacking and what not, but it was a question of time. Sailing straight into the wind would’ve taken far too long, and we had to be in Sosua that morning. So motor it was.

We had barely pulled up anchor when the bar was already serving up the tasty treats to thirsty tourists. I stuck to delightful bottled water. I applied several layers of sunscreen and just wandered around the craft from front to back, top to bottom. This was by no means a fine sailing vessel, but very much purpose-built to accommodate the party. She was sea-worthy no doubt, but the lines, rigging and layout were more about having fun then being a great performer. That being said, the ride was relatively smooth, which is why I was surprised at the number of passengers that were sea-sick. Mind you, the swells were quite large rollers (5 or 6 feet), but I’ve always found a tossing ocean to be soothing, no matter how I feel. In some ways, I prefer the ocean to the solid ground. It had me missing the old sailing days of my youth 😉 At any rate, it was entertaining to watch all the sickies woofing their cookies, and the poor deck hands having to clean it up! I suspect some of these people overdid it the night before. People really don’t think about the consequences much when they sign up for something like a catamaran trip. I mean, what did they expect? Regardless, in a morbid way, it was fun to watch these people suffer. Karma to a degree I guess.

Of course, that didn’t stop others from just getting right back on the drink wagon, and pickling themselves by the time we got to Sosua. Once we arrived, the dazzling day was sure to deliver some prime snorkeling. I had brought my own gear, and was more than ready to abandon ship and check out the ocean floor. As I didn’t have a waterproof camera with me, there are no pictures of this part of the day. It’s a true shame, for just off the shore, between the boats’ anchor point and the sandy beach, was a bit of a coral reef. The coral itself was quite unspectacular, but whoa! The fish! I was totally surrounded at some points by fish. Some of the crew brought out bags of bread, and were attracting the hungry critters. They came from far and wide to swim with us! It was incredible. In no time flat, I was paddling throughout the area, following massive schools of fish, seeing what the biggest and smallest fish were in the area. This went on for about 40 minutes I guess. The time flew, but it was a touch tiring eventually. We were waved back to the boat to enjoy lunch.

Plopping back on the deck, I saw them prepping lunch. My favorite! Tacos! Salad, trimmings, and desert to go along with them. Sweet. For those who weren’t aware, I just love tacos, so this made my day even better. I still resisted the pull of the Dominican, and stuck to my water diet with my meal. Let the others have their fun, I was here for the boat and the fishies, not the booze ;-). After lunch, they had the waterslide and dive platforms open. Oh, I guess I didn’t mention it, but the boat had a waterslide from the second level to the water below (complete with pumped water to keep the slide wet). On the other side of the boat, a little dive platform to jump from the second level into the water. Some of the other folks started having some fun sliding and diving. Me, well, since I still didn’t know anyone, and didn’t feel particularly like trying to make new friends, I just hung around. A number of us set about putting more food in the water to attract fish, and it worked like a charm. Before long, we had big groups of fish eating right at the boat’s waterline. I did take a few shots of those, but I don’t think they turned out that great. We stuck around for about another hour or so, swimming around the boat, snorkeling, drinking, whatever we wanted. Then it was time to pull up anchor.

We left Sosua harbour and continued to head east a little further along the coast, eventually turning around and pointing back towards Playa Dorado. The good news was that the wind was now in a perfect position for us to hoist sails and make like true seamen. Finally, real sailing! This was another great moment, as I’ve been on other boats like this where they didn’t even bother to truly sail. This was perfect. It took a bit of time to get everything rigged and hoisted, but as you can see, we were truly under wind power, with a main sail and a jib in the front. I just love that moment when the engines are killed. From then on, just the peaceful sound of wind and water. Well, that’s what it would have been, were it not for the large sound system blasting latin music the whole way :-). Oh well, you can’t have it all, can you. Plus, it was time for them to get their karaoke and crazy show underway in the main cabin of the boat. I popped my head down to have a peek, but opted to stay up top with another group of people and just enjoy the sailing.

To get back to our start point was about an hour and a half. In that time, I finally started to chat with a few people, including a really drunk guy from Toronto, and a girl from Montreal. It turns out she’d been on the pub crawl with me on Monday! Oops, I didn’t recognize her or remember. She was towards the back of the bus, and I had been at the front, pre-occupied with the other gang from Montreal. Anyway, she had also chosen to stay sober for this excursion, and was actually traveling with her parents and sister. The parents were celebrating paying off their house by taking their first trip outside of Canada as a family. I talked with her for a bit, while the Captain (or assistant I think) started working his magic on her and trying to pick her up. As usual, it was funny to watch. I think he succeeded, as a few days later, I ran into them at a nearby disco, and they were quite ‘cozy’ shall we say. Good on him!

Once we finally anchored back in Playa Dorado, I finally started having a couple drinks. After all, even though we were back at the resort area, it would be a while by the time they ferried everyone from the catamaran to the shore, so I decided to have a few drinks with the crew and a few of the others I’d met on the sail back, including the funny drunk Toronto couple and the Montreal girl (her folks left on the first ferry, and she stayed onboard for a bit). So we had a few rums, talked about life on the islands with the Dominicans, and our lives back in Canada. Another one of those great international brotherhood experiences. Mostly though, I was amused by all the stupid anecdotes and braggart-ly tails that Toronto dude was saying. Ha ha ha.Harmless fun all in all.

Soon enough, the time came to wrap up this excursion, and I grabbed the last ferry back to shore, just in time to change for my daily run before embarking on my nightly rum rituals. It had been a great day and I even managed to defeat my own white whale by staying off rum the entire time we were sailing! Huzzah, not that it was that great an accomplishment. I really enjoyed my Catamaran day, and were I to return with friends, I would definitely recommend doing this as a group, and taking full advantage of all the amenities of the boat. That being said, even alone I had a great time, and I’ll never forget the highlights of that day, like swimming with all the fish, sailing in the Caribbean sun, and chatting with the locals on their lifestyles. This about does it for my Dominican tales, as I’m still behind on my story-telling, so will have to shift gears in the next post. Stay cool people!

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