Monday, March 7, 2011

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Tuesday 1 March – Monday 7 March

We have a nice send off from South Side Marina as Simon, Charlyn, Deb, and Ed all come out early to help us and Tammera Sue off with our lines. Tammey & Joe on their 31 foot Island Packet are traveling as far as the Virgin Islands before they turn around to go back to the states, so we will be traveling to the same ports for a little while. With the bigger high tide we have no problems getting out the channel at 6:30 AM, heading south a ways on the banks to clear some shallow areas that have even more coral heads. We get to sail for a full 30 minutes before we have to turn east / southeast and can't hold the jib anymore, motor sailing again. The coral heads are easy to spot as we cross the Caicos Bank and anchor off Ambergris Cay by 1:45. A couple of hours later Tammera Sue comes into the anchorage and we have a relaxing afternoon. Joe & Tammey come over for cocktails as we watch the sun set all of us seeing our FIRST green flash !! A green flash happens just as the sun dips below the horizon, it is only for a second so not easy to see. Dinner on board Ocean Star. Wednesday morning we wait for the sun to be high enough to read the water and are under way by 9, in calm winds and waves. By 10 we turn east into the sun to approach the Fish Cays, glad we are in 36' of water not known for coral heads as the glare of the sun prevents us from reading the water. By 10:30 we are in thousands of feet of water crossing the Turks Passage (AKA Columbus Passage) that goes between the Turks & Caicos chains of Islands. We arrive at Big Sand Cay by 3 disappointed we only saw a whale off in the distance. This passage is a known migrating route for the hump back whale so we were hoping to see some a little closer. There are 5 other boats anchored near by, Big Sand is one of the stop overs to time your departure or arrival from the Dominican Republic. We rest a little and pull up anchor at 6 to head out the open channel into the Atlantic for our overnight passage to the DR. We had heard Tammera Sue (TS) talking to a couple of other boats when they left earlier in the evening so we know we will see some lights out there belonging to other boats. Around 11 we hail TS on the VFH and say Hi as we pass by also talking to another boat out in front of us, always nice to know there is someone around.

Quiet uneventful night and in the predawn hours the mountainous coast line of the DR starts to appear with the city lights hugging the coastline. The rugged beauty takes our breath away, as we get closer and closer and the sun rises shining more light on this incredible sight. The excitement builds as we can start to smell the difference in the air. By 7 we are approaching the marked channel leading into Ocean World Marina, near Puerto Plata DR. We stop at the fuel dock to check in and top off. Two Navy guards come on board with the young lady from the marina to help with translation. Things go very smoothly and professional, we top off with fuel but customs has not come in yet so we go to our slip to wait. Have time to tie & re tie lines, wash the boat down, and talk to neighbor boats. One boat leaving for the Bahamas so we trade our Bahamian courtesy flag for his DR flag, he also has a few other countries we are going to so get 4 more for $10. This marina gets a good surge along with it's 2 foot tide, so the boats tend to move around a lot in their slips. We were shown a different way to tie our lines keeping the line running back to the boat up over the cleat so it does not rub on the concrete NON floating docks and chafe through. One boat learned this the hard way as his lines were cut in two and did some damage to his bowsprit. After clearing customs we are free to roam about , TS as also arrived and cleared in. After lunch we go walk around to see what is close by, there are several resorts up the road so several restaurants and a few gift shops along the way. As we pass by one resort Jeff #1 says Hi to Steve like he knows him. Turns out he thought Steve was Joe who had passed by earlier. He is a “guide” and is offering his service to show us around, one of the ways the marina tells us is a good way to sight see. We get his card and tell him we will talk it over with Tammey & Joe to see if we want to split the cost to hire him as our guide. Walk back along the beach to the marina. Check with Tammey & Joe & decide the way to tour the city is to hire Jeff #1, so I call him up and arrange to be picked up at the marina on Friday. Thursday night we had learned from Cindy & Ed on the trawler next to us that there was a good Mexican restaurant just a 10 minute walk up the road. Been a while since any of us as had good Mexican food so that is where we go for dinner, and have a great meal. Jeff #1 meets us at the marina office Friday morning, along with Modesto as the driver so Jeff can talk to us and explain what we are seeing, stopping at places he goes with us to show us around and take pictures while Modesto stays with the car. One of our first stops is the Brugal Rum Factory, just a year ago getting partially automatized, but still doing many things by hand. The end of the tour, ends with little taster shots of the different rums. I noticed they also had 2 fruit juices to mix in, so I asked about mixing one of our shots. Well Tammey & I liked that much better. After a minute or two of communication we learned we could pay the cashier and get to go cups. They add a shot or 2 of which ever rum you want in the drink, but we decided they needed more rum, and they did not object to us adding more. I figured they would stay stop if they wanted us to,which they didn't, so we had some pretty stiff breakfast juice. Seeing the city as we travel up & down the city streets, glad not to be driving in the maze of people, cars, and motor bikes all trying to occupy the same spot. Next we go to Mount Isabel de Torres to ride the cable car up 2500+ feet, to see the spectacular views and the beautiful botanical gardens with a replica of Christ the Redeemer statue. The views and the gardens are just so beautiful, pictures do not even come close to showing the amazing beauty of this area, wish we could stay all day and walk around up in the cool mountain air through the garden. The lush green mountain side is so dense with plants you can barely see any ground. They used this mountain to film some of the scenes in the movie Jurassic Park. Back down the mountain and it is time for lunch, so Jeff stops at a local restaurant so we can try some Dominican food, very tasty. Back to the marina after a 6 hour tour of the city and surrounding area, we had wanted to visit the waterfalls we had heard so much about, so Jeff makes us a deal to give us a tour of the country side and take us to the waterfalls on Saturday. Pick up at 9:30 and we talk about seeing the country side to give the water a little time to warm up. As with many places you have the very beautiful homes and resorts with the very poor local areas in between. The locals know tourists are close by and there is a good chance they will stop by so even on these little back roads you can find people doing their best to make a living. Setting up shops as part of or in front of their homes. We have a very insightful tour through the country. Waterfall time !!! We arrive get changed and fitted for life jackets and helmets, we have 2 guides Bruco & Salvador for our group of 4. There is about a 20 minute hike over and through some small rivers and creeks to get to the falls. There are 27, but tourists only go up to 7. We are told it would take all day to get to # 27 and back as our guide has done, and you would have to be much better at climbing rocks than we are. It is a fantastic experience that only the pictures can give an idea of what it was like. Back down change into dry clothes and to a BBQ buffet lunch which is included and just what we needed as we sure worked up an appetite. Can't say enough about what a great time this was. Heading back to the marina we stop at a local bar to enjoy one more drink with Jeff, he has made touring the area very enjoyable and informative. Sunday is a planning day as Steve maps out our routes for the next couple of stops. Tammey makes a wonderful chicken enchilada dinner on board Tammera Sue along with John & Cyndi from S/V Glass Slipper who we exchange information with as they are heading to the Bahamas from the southeastern Caribbean and Puerto Rico where we are heading to. That is what is so wonderful with this life style meeting new people and exchanging information, maps, guide books, and local knowledge of places, and best of all just friendship. We have a wonderful evening returning to our boats just in time for a firework show from a party by the resorts going on down the beach. Monday morning we help cast off the lines for Tammera Sue who is leaving early to head for Samana further east down the DR shoreline. We will be leaving later in the day to meet them down in Samana for a few days to explore that region of the country.

link to pictures;

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