the Degree Confluence Project

Dominican Rep.

7.4 km (4.6 miles) N of Cabo Isabela (Cape), Puerto Plata, Dominican Rep.
Approx. altitude: 0 m (0 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 20°S 109°E

Accuracy: 13 m (42 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: SSE – a view to Puerto Blanco #3: SE view #4: GPS display #5: Captain Peter's 47th birthday #6: Granular muraite of potash #7: Heavy rain during the visit #8: A tropical storm is passing south of us #9: Nautical chart dated 1945 #10: Using a "classic" chart

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  20°N 71°W  

#1: South view

(visited by Captain Peter)

27-Aug-2006 -- Just on my birthday, 23 August, we have left Beaumont (Texas) with a cargo of 28,000 tons of granular muraite of potash. This substance is small kernels and is used mainly as a fertilizer. We have to carry this stuff to Santos in Brazil. The voyage from Texas to Southern Brazil will take us about 17 days.

Today we arrived at the northern coast of the Island of Hispaniola. After Cuba this is the second largest island in the Caribbean. It was discovered by Columbus in December 1492 when he landed in the NW part of the island (in what is now Haitian territory). In 1493 and 1494, during his second voyage, Columbus founded a number of colonies in the eastern part of Hispaniola, and 1496 his brother founded the city of Santo Domingo on the south coast. For two decades Santo Domingo was the centre of Spanish colonial activity in the Americas.

During the seventeenth century the French became established in the western part of Hispaniola, and in 1697 the Spaniards ceded that part of the island to France. In 1795, during the French Revolutionary Wars, the Spanish were forced to cede the eastern part of the island, but with British assistance regained this territory from the newly independent Haiti in 1809. In 1821 the Dominicans declared their independence from Spain but the following year were invaded by their neighbour and remained under Haitian rule for more than two decades. In 1844 the Dominicans finally expelled the Haitians.

Following independence the Dominican Republic underwent a long period of instability under a series of short lived governments. During the 1860s the republic reunited with Spain for four years and between 1916 and 1924 the country was ruled by a US military government. In 1930 General Trujillo gained power, which he maintained by dictatorial means until his assassination in 1961. The Trujillo era saw stability and considerable economic development, but severe repression of human rights, either. A period of instability followed the death of Trujillo and in 1965-66 the United States and the Organization of American States intervened to prevent a left wing takeover of the country. In 1978 an election was held which resulted in the first peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to another.

The Dominican Republic is mountainous with four roughly parallel ranges, which are separated by fertile valleys. Pico Duarte, about 80 km NW of Santo Domingo, has an elevation of 3175 m and is the highest mountain in the Caribbean.

This confluence, 20N 71W close to the shore of northern Hispaniola looked very promising, but, alas, this day we had extremely heavy rain. So the result is more than mediocre, and I have to repeat this visit at my earliest convenience.

The view to South shows us Punta Brimball, the N point of Cabo Punta Isabela, and to the Southeast the Dominican coastline towards Puerto Plata. In a few moments of less rain we could see the closest settlement to the Confluence, Puerto Blanco to the SSE, which is easily identified by its bare cliffs.

Well, there is rain, but I am happy there is just rain and nothing worse... We must not forget, we have already end of August, and this is the time of the highest frequency of occurrence of hurricanes in this area, and thus every mariner has to be very alert. Already prior departure from Beaumont, I had to work out the safest passage plan. Usually, I prefer a track south of the Greater Antilles, as the Sea is more pleasant there and not so affected be NE-ly winds and currents. But when doing the planning, I spotted a tiny circle east of Barbados - a so called "Tropical Wave". A tropical wave is not yet something to worry about. A number of tropical depressions that do form remain weak and do not develop further, but others can rapidly intensify into tropical storms and hurricanes. These are liable to affect the whole Caribbean Sea. In extreme cases, winds over 100 knots (about 185 km/h) have been recorded. Their tracks are often erratic and very difficult to predict.

Soon after having left Beaumont it became clear that this tropical wave had developed into a tropical depression, and would in all likelihood intensify and pass on my intended track south of the Greater Antilles. So I changed my mind and decided to pass Cuba and Hispaniola on their northern side, transitting the Old Bahama Channel (between the Great Bahama Bank and Cuba) and to enter the Caribbean Sea through the Mona Passage later (between Hispaniola and Pueto Rico).

And indeed, when we were about abeam of Havanna two days ago, the tiny tropical wave had already changed into a severe tropical storm. Whenever the depression becomes a storm, meteorologists give them a name. Every new hurricane season they start with letter "A". This storm was named "Ernesto". We are a modern ship and therefore we have "Ocean MetManager", a weather reporting and charting program, updated online every few hours. Have a look on the MetManager screen and you will realize that we are comfortably north of Hispaniola, and "Ernesto" is passing just south of Port-au-Prince in Haiti. If I had chosen the route south of the Greater Antilles I would have had crashed full power into "Ernesto". This storm is likely to bend soon towards NW, passing over Havanna, thence turn further to NE, continuing towards Tampa (Florida) and to reach even hurricane force.

Close to tropical storms and hurricanes you always do observe torrential rain (that is what spoiled my Confluence), and when closer, mountainous seas and abnormally high tides... all good reasons to avoid them whenever feasible.

My nautical chart with which I am sailing along Hispaniola's north coast is not what one could call the newest one. It is based on US Government surveys from 1945. But it is a beautiful classic old style chart, reminding still the Filibustiers' gunpowder smoke smell over the Caribbean waves...

 All pictures
#1: South view
#2: SSE – a view to Puerto Blanco
#3: SE view
#4: GPS display
#5: Captain Peter's 47th birthday
#6: Granular muraite of potash
#7: Heavy rain during the visit
#8: A tropical storm is passing south of us
#9: Nautical chart dated 1945
#10: Using a "classic" chart
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)
Out in the ocean, but with a clear view of the island.