Christmas of 2018 brought the Graners together in the Dominican Republic: our family all in one place, Ardell and Gordy, Jenny and Robert (son-in-law), Samuel, and Hannah. We are not able to be together very often, maybe once every two years so we are especially grateful for our reunions. We decided to take a week on the north coast of the country at a remote village called Las Galeras on the northeast corner of the Samana peninsula. It is a tourist area but not very developed and never crowded, a nice place for a quiet relaxing vacation. And so it was until we went on ‘the boat ride’.
Ardell and I wanted to take our ‘kids’ to El Fronton a secluded beach on the other side of the peninsula, a nice place for a picnic lunch and some snorkeling. The journey to El Fronton is taken in a 20 foot skiff operated by a local Dominican and is about a 30 minute ride.
Our driver was Lelo, a young but seemingly experienced boat captain. We each put on our life jacket, crawled into the boat and prepared ourselves for a casual ride on a bright, sunny and breezy morning.
We soon moved beyond the calm waters of the bay and into the more serious waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. The boat began to rise and fall on 3 to 4 ft. waves and within minutes the waves were 10-15 ft. The boat would climb up each wave and then fall into the deep trough with a slam that rattled our bones. Up….SLAM…up…SLAM. We grabbed for whatever we could, the sides of the boat and the seats and eventually each other. Up…SLAM…Up…SLAM…lurch to the right…SLAM…lurch to the left…SLAM!
We were all taken by surprise and could not believe what was happening. Three young Russian women were in the boat with us and one of them was terrorized, and visibly shaking. There was nothing we could do but hold on and pray we wouldn’t capsize. And then it was over, we arrived at the beach. The Russian women immediately asked the captain if there was a way to walk back. There is a path to walk but it takes hours and is very strenuous. They decided to beseech the captain to take them back by boat right away and they were off again in 20 minutes. We stayed for our picnic lunch and quietly contemplated having to return in the same fashion as we had arrived.
Lelo had left us in the hands of Daniel, another Dominican boatman, younger and more reckless. Daniel had a new romantic interest in a young English woman that he had met a few days before. She was now with us in the boat for the return. Daniel apparently wanted to impress the young lady with his superior skills in maneuvering a small boat through the high seas. Wow! Daniel drove like he had the devil by the tail. I have wondered at times what it would be like to ride a bull in the rodeo. It cannot be too far removed from what we were about to endure. It was a feeling of terror mixed with exhilaration. The return passage was even more wild, a slam fest, a test of our bones, a flirtation with present danger.
And then as we finally passed through the gates of hell we entered the relative calm of the bay. But what does Daniel do? As a parting shot he whipped us around in a high speed circle as if to say, “I am Daniel, and don’t you forget it!”
Don’t worry Daniel, we will never forget this day. The six of us did not talk much for the rest of the afternoon as if quiet contemplation of our safety was all we had left. Thanks be to God.