Saturday, March 10, 2018

We Love the DR!

Surprise, surprise - I'm writing this from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, having just crossed the Mona Passage over the last two days. We had a really good weather window and decided to take it, even though it meant we spent only three weeks in the Dominican Republic instead of the month we originally intended. Nevertheless we took full advantage of our time there, I felt like we saw quite a bit, and ended up really enjoying the country. We'll definitely be back. In my last post I wrote about some of the things we did during our eleven days in Luperon; here are some of the things we did after leaving there on March 1st:

 --Motorsailing the North Coast. We got our despacho on the afternoon of the 1st, a fairly painless process that took about an hour including visits to inmigración, Aduanas, & Port Authority. No charge for the despacho, just $20 for the Port Authority (7-30 days in the anchorage). We left at 4pm to clear the channel in daylight & avoid the fishing net bouys, which meant our first few hours were a bit rough until the night lee established itself about 9pm. Otherwise it was a gorgeous motorsail. We passed Rio San Juan around daybreak and kept going past Scottish Bay with a nice counter-current on our tail; there was no east gradient wind and only a little seabreeze to buck. Rounding the Samaná Peninsula in the late afternoon and early evening was absolutely stunning. We got into the Samaná town anchorage at 9pm Friday, and pulled up anchor early the next morning to move to the Puerto Bahia Marina.

--Staying at Puerto Bahia Marina / The Bannister Hotel. This place was kinda nuts, in a good way. Imagine a nice marina with gorgeous views across Samaná Bay, next to a 4-star hotel and a ton of vacation homes and condominiums strewn up the hillside, all inside a secure gate that keeps the usual pandemonium of the DR at bay. There are 2 pools, 3 restaurants, 3 bars, a gym, hot showers, a spa - all of which are open to marina guests. Everything is well staffed and immaculately maintained - and there is nobody around. Like seriously, other than the marina guests, employees and armed guards, the place is deserted. It's quite eerie. Maybe I've been watching too much Ozark lately, but my personal theory is that it's a money laundering scheme. Anyways it's a fantastic deal at $1/ft/night. The check-in and despacho process is significantly easier here than Luperon or especially (so I hear) the Samaná town anchorage. The commandante is particularly friendly and speaks good English. That said, this is definitely not the "real DR" - it's a vacation from it.

--Catching up with S/V Vela and S/V O'ceananigans and meeting the friendly crews of S/Vs La Mischief and Follow Me and S/V Mercator. After having significantly trailed us all season, our friends Erin and Kara on Vela abruptly caught up to us with a giant 500nm leap from Georgetown to Samaná, using the same giant weather window we used to move east. Catamarans La Mischief and Follow Me made the same passage in about the same time. We had met David and Joanna on O'ceananigans in Luperon, they had gone to Samaná a few days before us, and came into the marina the day after us. We tried to rent a car for a few days but the car rental agency only had a 12-passenger Hyundai van, so we ended up playing tour guide for several days of exploring in company with the other cruisers.

--Daytrip to Las Galeras. We had seven people from Windbird, Vela, and La Mischief for this one. We drove east along the Samaná Peninsula, checked out the town of Las Galenas, played on the beach a bit, moved over to La Playita for lunch, and then did a bit of bushwhacking out to the Boca de Diablo blowhole on our return. It was a really nice day to a gorgeous area.

--Daytrip to El Limón and Las Terrenas. We had nine people from Windbird, Vela, La Mischief, Follow Me, and O'ceananigans for this one. We procured horses and guides for the trek to the spectacular El Limón waterfall, then drove to Las Terrenas for a fantastic lunch, walking on the beach, and drinking and shooting pool in a beach bar. On the way back we hit up a produce truck in Samaná.

--Overnight trip to Boca Chica / Santo Domingo. On Monday night Judy Handley emailed me that Delta had notified her there was another possible Nor'easter inbound to Boston on her planned travel date of Wednesday, Mar 7 and offered to move her travel forward a day, which she decided to do. So that changed our plans slightly. We left Samaná an hour or two earlier than planned and drove directly to Santo Domingo Airport to pick Judy up around 5:30pm, then drove to Boca Chica where she had reserved a room at a beachfront hotel. We found a cheap option only a few blocks away in a place over a Spanish restaurant. We walked the beach and had a nice dinner, then retired fairly early in preparation for our early start the next day. On Wednesday we drove to Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone, got breakfast at a cafe, and did a self-guided walking tour for the next 5 hours or so. Santo Domingo was considerably cleaner and more orderly than I was expecting, even the driving wasn't that bad compared to the nuttiness of the rest of the DR. The colonial zone was pretty fascinating, oozing history from every street corner. We had a late lunch in a convenient cafeteria, did some provisioning at the nearby Supermercado Nacional, and drove back to Samaná before nightfall. One major surprise from the drive: finding Rogue Brewing's Dead Guy Ale, in cans, at a gas station along the way! We got a sixer for the boat's beer stores.

I'll cover our Mona crossing in another post, but for now suffice it to say it was about as smooth of a Mona crossing as one can hope for. After getting stuck in Turks and Caicos for 3 weeks, we've been lucking out on weather ever since. Here's hoping that trend continues as we explore Puerto Rico's south coast and head onward to the Virgin Islands!

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