Dominican Republic

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Ocean World Photos         Puerto Plata Photos        27 Charcos (Waterfalls) Photos       Rio San Juan and Samana Photos       Bahia de San Lorenzo Photos

      Turks and Caicos to Dominican Republic    

Map of route

 

 

First sight of the Dominican Republic

 

 

Entering the channel for Ocean World Marina

 

 

Green lush hills

 

 

 

Grocery shopping in Puerto Plata

 

 

Puerto Plata

 

 

 

Repairs to the canvas Bimini. It only has to last 2 more weeks!

29 January 2010

Well here we are in the Dominican Republic. Not quite where we intended to be! Arrived today, Friday. But, what a friendly place, and after the flatness of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, lush green mountains.

Met up with two other boats in Big Sand Cay in the T & C, the last refuge before the next big jump south, all waiting for the same non-existent weather window to Puerto Rico. Big Sand Cay is on the western side of the Turks Passage, and many humpback whales travel down this passage in late January and through February looking for mates around the Mouchoir Banks. (A whale of a time humping?).

After one day in the rolly anchorage at Big Sand Cay in the T&C, we all decided we had had enough and would head out and face the weather towards the Mouchoir Banks where all this whaley stuff is supposed to happen and as the weather was not going to cooperate for a direct run to Puerto Rico, we would join the other two boats and head for the 90 mile overnight run to Dominican Republic.

Big seas! Big winds! Big whales! Albeit the whales were at a distance but we saw a number of water spouts and a couple of tail thrashes. The lead boat had one jump out of the water not too far away. Can you imagine a 60’ male whale jumping out of the water and shouting “Yippee!”

We arrived at the Mouchoir Bank at dusk when the whales are liveliest.

Geoff went down to rest soon after dark and Iza was at the helm with the boat on autopilot. (Yes, it’s working fine now). Geoff is lying in the salon and thinks he hears voices. Too much rum perhaps the night before! A couple of seconds later, Iza yells for Geoff on deck. As Geoff appears, the boat is haring past a small hard dinghy and two guys standing yelling for help! Iza had been playing with the autopilot to try to pick the best wind tack so had been zig-zagging a bit, and nothing on the radar except the two boats in front and BIG waves. No way could the radar have seen this boat. It’s dark, and they are in a dark boat in dark clothes. We nearly hit them, we were as close as 10 metres! Are they lucky, or what?

So what now? Called the other two yachts about 4 miles in front and told them what we had found and that we would stop and help if we could, but in case of any problem, they would at least know where to find us. Agreed on a 10 minute radio update. The seas are really big and it’s blowing 23+ knots, so we furl the genoa. (The sail at the front!), keep the main up, start the engines, meanwhile circling them so we don’t lose them, having put a “Man Overboard” waypoint in the system.

Threw them a long heavy line taken from one of our anchors, then pulled them close enough to talk. Turns out they were not Haitians escaping the tragedy or pirates but two Dominican Republic lobster fisherman, (divers) and their engine had broken on their 10’ boat. They spoke Spanish, so took some time to get any further than that. It was obvious that the boat was not equipped for more nefarious activities, and there was no way we could or should tow them in their boat the remaining 70 miles to Dominican Republic, (DR). So, got them onboard, leaving their daily catch of lobsters and conch plus basic diving equipment onboard. Very polite, nervous at stepping onto an unknown boat and had to be told where they could sit. Many bottles of water and a plateful of ham sandwiches disappeared very quickly.

Relayed details to Second Lady and Wind Whisper. Denis on Wind Whisper had a sat phone and called the US Coast Guard, who patched through to the Puerto Rican Coast Guard, who patched through to the DR Navy.

We had committed to go to Ocean World in DR by this time, so the Navy advised they would meet the fishermen when we arrived. One of the fishermen, Alexande gave us the phone number of a neighbour, so this was passed to the Navy who agreed to phone the number to advise them that Alexande and Francisco were safe. We also agreed on an hourly radio check-in with the other two boats through the night.

Kept the small fishing boat on a long tow, but at night in big seas we could rarely see its behavior. Stopped and pulled it in a couple of times to check dry and all was good.

After 30 miles of towing we went through a couple of quick squalls where the wind driven waves and wind were higher. One wave too many! The boat was swamped and turned over. We assumed it was theirs so expressed our sorrow at the loss and asked them to cut off our valuable anchor rode and let the boat and our rode sink!

We had been trying to work out on the charts how they could possibly be where we found them. They slept most of what was a very long night but by dawn, the younger one, Alexande came out of his shell and began to remember some English and with the help of a Spanish/English dictionary, we were able to piece together the story. Turns out they were one of fifteen similar boats, attached to a fish processing mother ship and the mother ship had arrived out on the Mouchoir Bank early that morning.

The 15 small boats then scour the reef for fish, lobsters and conch, returning to the mother ship. No radios, no flashlights, no mirrors. There had been a previous problem with the engine which supposedly had been fixed, but when it broke, they just drifted out into the current heading north through the Turks Passage. Luckily the fishing boat belonged to the mother ship and not to these guys, but they owned the clothes, diving equipment, shoes and day’s catch, all lost when it sank.

By morning Alexande became our deck hand and was helping with sail handling and fishing tips. He also helped us patch our old canvas bimini which tore in the high winds, (due to be replaced with the hardtop in BVI in a couple of weeks) with tape and a stapler.

We now have an invitation to drop in to Rio San Juan, the small fishing village where his house is located on our way to Puerto Rico.

When we arrived offshore Ocean World. and called on the radio, they were expecting us and the navy was there to take care of these guys and deal with all formalities. In fact the navy guys recognized the fishermen as we came into the marina.

When Government officials visited us on board we had VIP treatment and every office, Immigration, Customs, Drug Enforcement all knew we were the guys who picked up the fishermen.

So, there’s never a dull moment.

Alex and Francisco, the fishermen

 

 

Dreaming On at dock

 

 

 

Casino at Ocean World

Ocean World
Puerto Plata
27 Charcos
Isabel de Torres

Rio San Juan

Enroute to Samana
Samana
Bahia de San Lorenzo
 
 
 

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      Ocean World    
  29 January - 2 February 2010

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We had recommendations for Ocean World Marina, as opposed to going in to Luperon. Check in with Immigration and Customs was very smooth and although you have to contend with surge, high winds and noisy sea lion shows, the docks are very solid, the facilities are superb and the Dolphinarium is second to none.

There is also a casino. Not very large but very ornate with restaurants, bars and a disco. Just outside of the resort are some great little bars and Mexican restaurants. All good value.

So the weather kept us at Ocean World to enjoy the facilities for a few days.

We keep thinking we might have an enjoyable close encounter with a wild dolphin on our own one day, but that really is wishful thinking. So we succumbed to doing the tourist thing and going on a dolphin swim. Good decision!  The expression on our faces says it all!

Although we are not into animal circus tricks as a rule, these dolphins really seemed to enjoy life.

DR certainly seems like a beautiful country. The north side where we are is green and mountainous and there are several hikes and climbs around. One hike is the 27 waterfall hike. You climb the mountain with helmet, special shoes and lifejacket then come down jumping into 27 successive waterfalls.

We have met several cruisers here and after almost three weeks of seeing no-one and speaking to no-one it's quite a culture shock. Denis and Katia from Wind Whisper are from Russia, now living in Canada and are great fun to be with. We have really enjoyed spending time with them. Katia joined us for the dolphin swim.

Katia and Iza dressed up like real ladies one evening to visit the casino. Denis had a respectable win there, treated us to a bottle of champagne then made a further, very welcome donation towards our fishermen fund.

We decided to have a whip round for the fishermen as they had lost many personal items when their boat sank. Several cruisers in Ocean World have been very generous in donating cash and/or kind.

Our thanks to:

Denis & Katia – Wind Whisper

Rick & Leila – Second Lady

Tom & Angela – Angel of London

Paul and Deb – Werplayin’

Andrew & wife – Samaria ll

Wilhelm & Angela – Belle Brise

We plan to stop at Rio San Juan, where Alexande lives to deliver the cash and kind when we leave Ocean World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the casino

 

 

 

      Puerto Plata    
  2 February 2010

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Denis, fortunately, turned out to be an excellent tour guide and was way ahead of the rest of us in finding places to go, to make the best of the area. And, luckily on  this occasion, weather delayed our departure from Ocean World again. So, while we were still thinking about what to do, he had arranged a rental car and was ready to do the DR for a day.

We started with a trip around Puerto Plata, visiting the colourful fruit and vegetable market, then the old San Felipe Fort that guards the entrance to the port. The fort, built over 400 years ago is right up on the headland and very well preserved.

 

      Salto del Rio Damajagua - 27 Charcos  (27 Waterfalls for those of you who don't speak Spanish)    
 

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But the highlight of the day was our visit to 27 Charcos, Here you have the opportunity to climb up 7, 12 or 27 waterfalls, then jump or slide back down them again. We elected to take the first 12, which involved walking, climbing rocks and wooden ladders, climbing up waterfalls through the deluge of water, (and in some cases being unceremoniously dragged up by our two very strong guides), and swimming through some seriously cold mountain water. When we had to plunge into the first pool to swim to the first waterfall at the beginning of the climb, we truly realized how cold that mountain water was. Quite a shock.

It was a pretty strenuous climb but worth every moment.

Then the time comes to make the first jump from what seems to be quite a scary height into the unknown.  A real adrenalin rush! 

Not for the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights. Although there were only four real jumps and four natural slides, it’s the fear of the unknown. Unfortunately our cameras did not do justice to the occasion with water splashes on the lenses and low light.

The guides were fantastic, incredibly agile and strong and of course had no fear. We wore lifejackets and helmets and were in good hands.

To complete the day, we drove up to the top of the highest mountain in the area, Isabel de Torres, 2,673 feet high, (800 metres), to take in a sunset view over Puerto Plata. There is a cable car that operates but closes down at 5 pm..

 

      Isabel de Torres    
 

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To complete the day, we drove up to the top of the highest mountain in the area, Isabel de Torres, 2,673 feet high, (800 metres), to take in a sunset view over Puerto Plata. There is a cable car that operates but we were too late for this.

A large statue of Jesus has been placed at the top of the mountain. Apparently a scale copy of the statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Landscaped gardens surrounded the mountain top and statue. Outstanding views over the Northern coast.

 

      Rio San Juan    
 

3 February 2010

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We tried in vain to make contact with Alexande’s family in Rio San Juan, some 36 miles from Ocean World, to tell him we were coming to Rio to see them. So we decided to take the risk and go anyway as it is listed as a daytime anchorage on the way to Samana, our next major port of call.

Because of the prevailing easterly/south easterly winds, going east along the coasts of DR and Puerto Rico has many challenges. Luckily for us cruisers, authors such as Bruce Van Sant and Stephen Pavlidis have been there before us, checked all the anchorages and given guidelines as to how to make the journey. We have used Stephen Pavlidis guides through the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos and really enjoyed some remote spots that we otherwise would have missed.

Bruce Van Sant has a superbly written book called “The Gentlemen’s Guide to Passages South”. (Or how to make this normally thorny path thornless). Bruce advises moving at night along the coast when the prevailing headwinds, (and seas) subside and making use of the offshore katabatic night breezes. It works.

We also usually have to make it into unfamiliar anchorages in daylight, and normally at the right time of day so the sun is behind us on approach.

In order to make Rio San Juan in daylight, with the sun high enough to make our entry through the reef, we had to leave Ocean World Marina at 1am. Denis and Katia reappeared on the dock at 1am when they heard our engines running to give us a hand. Thanks guys. Not the easiest of exits at night with a sharp right hander around the sea wall and immediately into the ocean swell, but luckily the red and green channel markers are well lit.

Arrived in the anchorage at Rio San Juan around 8am, having slowed down to let the sun rise higher so we could see the reefs. There was plenty of space, but a swell from the reef breakers throughout most of the anchorage. Took a rest before heading to shore by dinghy.

There is no dock in the fishing village, so dinghied in to a beach where we saw small fishing boats pulled up onto the sand. As we climbed out and started pulling the dinghy up the beach, half a dozen boys turned up to assist.

None spoke English, but in Iza’s ever improving Spanish, we asked them if they knew Alex (Alexande). Eventually one seemed to have heard the story, but we made little progress. Then luckily, we were taken to meet Rachel who lived just across the street from the beach. Rachel spoke reasonably good English and once she understood our reason for coming, she called the number we had for Alex, then told us that he was away fishing for a couple of days, but his wife was in the village and her father would come and meet us. While we were waiting, Rachel told us about her family and life in Rio San Juan, where 80% of the workforce are involved in fishing. She also served us with marvelous DR coffee.

Soon, Alonso, Alex’s father-in-law turned up. Alonso does not speak English, but through Rachel told us how they had received word from the fishing mother ship on the Mouchoir Bank that Alex and Francisco were lost. They are a very religious family so prayed that someone would find them. Alex’s wife had even told their young children that dad wasn’t coming home!  Fortunately the DR Navy was able to get in touch through the phone number Alexande had given us, and reassure the family that he was OK.

Rachel then walked with us to Alonso’s house, where we met, Loly, Alex’s lovely wife, Ana, his mother-in-law, and Bella, the neighbor, whose telephone number we were using to make contact. When school finished for the day, Alonso collected Loly and Alex’s children, 5 year old son Yannardis and 3 year old daughter Nicole. Soon Maria another neighbor and her son Christian joined the party.

The family were obviously very gratified by the fact that we had been in the right place at the right time to find Alex and Francisco, but also surprised that we had bothered to pick them up and bring them home. They were overwhelmed by the fact that we had taken that trouble, had now come to visit and that a group of foreigners had contributed cash and diving items for Alex and Francisco.

Alex’s family are wonderful people. We really enjoyed our short time with them and consider ourselves fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet them. We hope we will be able to pass by Rio San Juan again sometime in the future

After a very enjoyable couple of hours, some more superb DR coffee served by Ana and a photo shoot, we walked back with Rachel to her house buying some fresh fruit and veg on the way.

There we met her husband Eliezer and their young children Raziel and Asdrubal. Rachel and Eliezer are great characters. Eliezer is an English teacher during the week and enjoys fishing at weekends. And Rachel makes the queen of desserts, which we named Rachel’s naranja pudding. This is dark (un sweet) orange mixed with vanilla, honey and cream. Wow!

Finally around 5pm, we said our farewells and headed back to the boat so we could leave the anchorage before dark.

We look forward to our next visit to Rio San Juan.

 

 

      Enroute to Samana    
 

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Shortly after we left Rio San Juan for Samana, we heard Wind Whisper on the radio. They had left Ocean World a day and a half later than us so were also enroute to Samana. We worked out that they were about 12 miles behind us. As we had to leave the Samana anchorage before dark due to the surrounding reefs, and did not want to arrive Samana in the dark, we had plenty of time, so were taking it slowly. By the time we reached Samana, Denis and Katia were a couple of miles behind and had caught an Albacore Tuna on the way.

We anchored for the day in a small cove around the back of Samana for some rest, then late afternoon  moved into the main Samana harbor anchorage to check out of DR ready for our trip to Puerto Rico.

 
      Samana    
 

4 February 2010

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Checking in and out of Samana was a bureaucratic headache. Not only did we have to check in, then out, but before the Navy would even look at our documents, we were asked to pay anchoring fees for anchoring in the harbour.  This transaction was completed sitting on a park bench, but the documents were originals and we are still not sure whether it was a scam or the Port Authority making some money. (First time we have ever been asked tor pay anchoring fees). However, you have to go with the flow, have a couple of beers and laugh it off.

Second Lady, Angel of London, Samaria ll, Werplayin’ and Belle Breeze had arrived in Samana ahead of us early that morning.

Denis, (the appointed tour guide!) had meanwhile worked out that we could leave Samana very early morning, sail across the 10 mile wide Samana Bay to a national park called Parque Nacional Los-Haitises, anchor in Bahia de San Lorenzo, visit the caves and islands of the area, share their recently caught Albacore Tuna for dinner and still make a late evening departure for the potentially very nasty crossing of the Mona Passage between DR and Puerto Rico.

 

 

 

 

      Bahia de San Lorenzo    
 

5 February 2010

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We left Samana early morning with Wind Whisper and had a pleasant sail/motorsail across the bay. Wind Whisper tried their spinnaker for a while, but the wind did not hold up for long.

The anchorage at Bahia de San Lorenzo is fantastic. A large horseshoe shaped bay, with entry from the west. Along the shoreline to the south, an array of James Bond type Thai islands, full of enticing channels between the islands and then many longer channels through incredible mangroves as you go further inland. The north side of the bay is protected by a long low mangrove covered peninsular.

We spent the day wandering around the islands in the dinghy, winding through mangrove forests and exploring amazing limestone caves which contained some old pictographs.

Later on, we moved both boats out of the bay to a magical anchorage behind Cayos de los Pajaros (Bird Cays) where we enjoyed another brief local dinghy exploration followed by as superb tuna dinner on board Wind Whisper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                             

                         

      To Puerto Rico    
 

5 - 7 February 2010

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We left Cayos de los Pajaros around 9pm buddy boating with Wind Whisper. Navigated our way through Samana Bay on our way to Puerto Rico, finding, (and narrowly missing!), a few small unlit fishing boats along the way! There was some chop on the water and on the radar, these small fishing boats show up as waves.

The trip to Puerto Rico would take around 36 hours. The Mona Passage has changing currents, is liable to big seas and strong winds, plus some serious late evening squalls that drift off the west coast of Puerto Rico. Bruce Van Sant gives many go/nogo scenarios for making the trip and advised some very clever, indirect routes that use the wind and currents to best advantage while avoiding the squalls.

As we left Samana Bay, we hugged the north coast of the southern DR peninsular to take advantage of the katabatic (night time offshore) winds with the deadline to be offshore Punta Macau by 8am to avoid the winds and seas that would develop in daylight around Cabo (Cape) Engano, the most easterly point of DR.

As winds were supposed to be relatively light we decided to take Bruce Van Sant’s recommended motor/motorsail route heading south over the Hourglass Shoal before turning east for Puerto Rico and maybe see some whales along the way.

It turned out to be another rough ride. Winds around 22-24 knots all day, with confused seas to 8’ over the shoals. Wind Whisper meanwhile were heading further south to Punta Cana on DR’s southeast coast where visitors were arriving to spend the week with them. We stayed in VHF contact until they arrived in Punta Cana Marina. They were lucky enough to see a mother and calf humpback whale along the way whereas although we looked out for whales, we had to be satisfied with a pair of curious dolphins.

During the second night, the wind steadied and the sea calmed enough to allow us a good sail into Mayaguez on the east coast of Puerto Rico where we arrived to anchor in the dark at around 5am on 7th February.

 

 

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Email

prower@ondreamon.com

Telephone

USA: 1-954 4785948        UK:  +44 7855388258         Skype: geoff.iza