On Saturday afternoon 18th January we said farewell to the Port of Santo Domingo where we were berthed and guests of the Navy of the Dominican Republic. We had a very memorable stay and received huge generosity from the Navy of the Dominican Republic and the Lebanese community. We would particularly like to thank all who helped from the Lebanese-Syrio-Palestino Club, especially Club President Alfred Malek and all the active members; Elvis Alam, Ramy Malek, Daphne Villalba Sajiún and her family. Also we would like to thank Rosa Maria Nadal (Ministry for Exterior Relations), Hector Juan Martinez Roman, ARD, Subcommandante General, de la Amada de Republica Dominica, Aramis A Cespedes Aybar (Captain de Navio), Jose Gerardo Fajardo (Captain de Navio), Victor I Santos Gil (Captain de Navio), Luis Scheker - Club Lebanon Syria Palestine, Carmen Khoury, Lebanese World Cultural Union. We would also like to thank Lt Chrisostomo (Republica Dominican Navio) for his help in liaising with us. Finally, none of this would have happened without the kind introduction from Dr Habib Chamoun for which we are most grateful.
In Santo Domingo, after the New Year’s celebrations, we said our goodbyes to four Atlantic-crossing crew members: Remi, Max, David and Aziz. For the final leg of our journey, we welcomed two new crew members on board: Lindsay from Australia and Vera from Brazil. This is not Vera’s first time as a Phoenician crew member; she sailed from Mozambique to Cape Town on Phoenicia’s first expedition around Africa. With 10 crew members we are back down to two watches of five people each.
Due to strong and favourable easterly winds, we headed west along the Haitian coast towards Cuba, enjoying a couple of days of brisk sailing in windy conditions. At times, Phoenicia was surfing down the waves and at one point reached 7 knots and we therefore used the brailing lines to reef the sail so as not to court trouble. And as the winds were consistent, we sailed close through the gap between the island of Beata and another small island which was just a mile or two apart.
After three days of great sailing, the winds slowed and as we turned north into the straight between Haiti and Cuba we ran into strong headwinds. There was no option other than to motor into these waves. As the night of January 22nd progressed, the waves got bigger and bigger and Phoenicia took a real battering. At one point the waves were so big that the horse’s head, which sits on the prow, was submerged in water as the deck took on a huge wave. The waves were that aggressive. The force of the wind and waves meant we had to have 3 crew members manning the helm at any one time. It was, to say the least, a little scary and we were beginning to think of plan B, but fortunately after 12 hours the wind started to moderate and we could all breathe a sigh of relief.