South Coast of DR
Friday 15 March – Friday 29 March
We had a calm crossing of the Mona passage from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic, we had to motor most of the way but the seas were calm so made for a comfortable (but noisy) ride. 22 hours after leaving PR we were entering the Marina Zar Par in Boca Chica DR. The marina sends out a tender to guide you in and we go to the fuel dock to clear in with customs & immigration and get fuel, 3 hours later we get to our slip. Don't think it usually takes that long but everyone was very nice & helpful, the marina staff even drove Steve to a bank to get some local money. We had noticed in PR black ash on the boat and first thought it was someone having a big BBQ on the beach. Now in the DR we notice it again and are trying to figure out how we still have ash on the boat after 22 hours at sea. We learn that they are burning the sugar cane fields and the black ash just goes every where during the month of March. NOT mentioned in any of the tourist guides :). Free water at the marina so wash the boat down and get it ready for guests arriving Sunday & Monday.
Sunday morning a little more getting the boat ready. Then Steve makes a wonderful pork tenderloin with apples, apricot, cranberry & sweet potato that just has to be heated up when he gets back from picking Sean up at the airport. They get back around 8 pm and after Sean gets settled in we have a great dinner. Monday Sean goes to meet Carrie at the airport, and the taxi drops Steve off at the grocery to be picked up on the way back. They all arrive back on the boat around 12:30 as we meet Carrie for the first time showing her around the boat and let her get settled in and changed into island clothes. We walk down to the beach known as Boca Chica and find a beach restaurant to have a late lunch. Once seated at the table on the beach we immediately start getting approached by vendors. They are selling EVERYTHING. From food & drink, even though we are sitting at a restaurant, to sunglasses, watches, jewelry, even 4' x 3' pictures, massages, pedicures & of course cigars. It was hard to have a conversation in between the hundreds of times we had to say NO GRACIAS. Not the most pleasant experience but entertaining and a true Dominican experience.
The beach is lovely and for a late afternoon on a Monday very busy and getting busier. We (me) did get suckered into getting the “best pina colada in the world” drink down the beach, it was NOT but we used the beach lounge chairs to drink them & refused his request for a tip for the already overpriced drinks. Rule # 1 find out the price first !!
Back to the marina by 5 to request our despacho for the following morning so we can go to another anchorage. Unlike the other eastern Caribbean countries, in the DR you need a form allowing you to move from one spot to another. We get ours to go to Bayahibe where we will get another to go to Isla Saona our goal. Bayahibe is a interesting little village and anchorage. It is home to about 30 catamaran day trip boats plus several 10 to 20 seat motor boats that take tourist from near & far resorts out to Isla Saona, a national park.
Bayahibe has its share of vendors selling souvenirs, but they have huts you can choose to walk by or go in and look, and they are not too pushy. Steve, Sean & Carrie had gone in the night before to let them know we had arrived. The next morning we all go in to see the town and find an ATM so Carrie & I can get some DR Pesos, and to get our despacho to go to Isla Saona. Isla Saona is an island with beautiful beaches all around it, it gets busy for a few hours during the day with all the day trip boats, but they are almost all gone by 3 and at night we shared the anchorage with 3 other boats. The day trip boats have assigned areas so no one beach is swarmed with all the people. This being Carries first time staying on a sail boat we are happy to show her this wonderful part of anchoring out off beautiful locations. After a few of the catamarans left we took the dinghy to the beach to check in and walk the beach and swim.
Thursday we had made arraignments, in Bayahibe, for a dive shop to come out to our boat at Isla Saona to take us diving. When we get up we see that Ultra has arrived and is anchored near by. Steve & I go by to say HI and even though they just got in 2 hours before they join us to go diving in an hour. It was of course subject to the dive shops okay, which they did and since Bill & JoAnne have equipment & tanks it was just a matter of loading 2 more people into the dive boat. A little later start then planned but the dive sights were close by and the guides were not in a hurry. Back to the boat to clean off equipment and a late lunch followed by relaxing afternoon. Sean & Carrie go swimming again, Steve makes a Bulgur salad to bring over to Ultra who invited us all over to dinner that night. Dinner followed by some rum tasting. Friday Ultra leaves early to continue on to Casa de Campo marina to clear into the country while we do some more exploring of the island.
Bill had lent us a dive plane that he made. You tow it behind the dinghy and using a mask, hold on & hold your breath & dive down and snorkel, angling the board to either dive or come up for air or go left or right. Sean said it was the closest he's ever come to feeling like a porpoise. The dinghy's not going fast, only 2-3 knots, but it's way faster than you can swim, and effortless gliding along the bottom.
Even if the weather is not good, partly cloudy with a few showers, we still have fun and visit another beautiful beach that we have to ourselves to have a picnic lunch. We got our despacho Friday night so are ready to leave early on Saturday. We were going to go all the way back to Zar Par marina so left at 7, but Bill & JoAnne called on the radio telling us how wonderful Casa de Campo marina is and Saturday night is a free BBQ at the yacht club. So we make the decision to go there. It will be a longer taxi ride for Sean & Carrie to the airport the next day but they will get to see some place different. The marina sends a boat out to help us get into our slip and we are docked by 9:30. Check out the marina and surrounding area then decide to head to the beach.
Casa de Campo is a huge complex of 7,000 acres on which sits in addition to the 370 slip marina, a luxury hotel, 4 golf courses, equestrian center with 3 polo fields, a skeet shooting range, tennis courts, numerous shops and restaurants, private million dollar homes, the beautiful Minitas beach, Altos de Chavon a stone paved medieval village over looking the Chavon river, complete with an amphitheater to mention a few amenities. It employees 15,000 people mostly from the near by town of La Romana. The marina rates are very reasonable, for our 50 ft boat $50 a night, restaurants are also reasonable but the shops are VERY expensive as is the laundry service that I learned the hard way. But now after almost 57 years I can say I have IRONED sheets & pillowcases :).
Getting ahead of myself here, so we are on our way to the beach Saturday by 10:30. One thing this area lacks is a cheap way to get from point A to point B. All rental properties come with a golf cart, and you can rent them here at the marina, but NO shuttle buses !!! Only taxi's, not a cheap way to go short distances. As we were learning this a very nice gentleman came out of the grocery store and asked where we were going. Carrie (who is fluent in Spanish as well as French and was our WONDERFUL interpreter while she was here) told him to the beach, and he gave us a ride. It was a lovely day at the beach with NO vendors trying to sell us anything. Lunch at the beach then a nice 30 minute walk back to the marina getting to see some gorgeous homes and landscaping.
Saturday evening the yacht club hosted a free BBQ for the beginning of the sports fishing season. The yacht club, is a beautiful building outside and in, decorated with mahogany wood, art work and fantastic lighting. It is open to all and has a great bar with a friendly staff. We thought it would be a cash bar but soon learn Absolute vodka, Brugal rum, another liquor can't remember & Presidente beer and a passion fruit rum punch were all free, paid for by sponsors of the party. We were all very happy with the choices. Wait staff served appetizers, as we listened to live music waiting on the BBQ hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, coleslaw and salad, followed by more live music. Eleven pm we decide to go up to Altos de Chavon to check out the village, even at night it is beautiful and you feel like you are in an old stone village not one that was built in 1976. JoAnne talked one of the security guards into letting us ride in the bed of the little pick-up trucks (I got shotgun) up to the village for $15 ($5 each couple). We had a fun time seeing the sights at night and had made arraignments for him to come back and pick us up at 1. He was a no show for the ride back to the marina but we found another security guard who between JoAnne & Carrie made the same deal to get us back to the marina.
Sunday morning we were all moving a little slow but this was Sean & Carrie's last day so we got up and they packed up then we got a ride from the taxi driver set up to take them to the airport to bring us up to the hotel for a couple of hours before they had to leave for the airport. The hotel pool is beautiful and it was a great way to make the most of the morning before their 12:30 departure to the airport. They are on their way to the airport and we go back to the boat to find a note from Bill & JoAnne that they were riding their bikes heading to the pool then would go to the polo fields to watch a game at 4:30. We rested for a few hours then got our taxi guy to bring us back up to the polo grounds across from the hotel to find NO game on Sunday. So we go back to the hotel and find Bill & JoAnne and decide to get a free hotel shuttle to Altos de Chavon to see it in the daylight.
They really did a great job at recreating an 18th century village and it is fun seeing it and the views of the river. Catch the 7:15 pm hotel shuttle back to the hotel with several other hotel guests, I lend Bill & JoAnne my flashlight so they can ride their bikes back to the marina and the hotel driver drives Steve & I back to the marina. We walked through the plaza where all the restaurants are to check out menus. JoAnne & Bill make it back safe and we go out for dinner. A great day ending a great visit with Sean & Carrie and for Steve & I to celebrate 3 years of cruising living on our floating traveling home.
Monday I go to find the laundromat and find out the one here at the marina is no longer here, only one up at the hotel so they call someone to come and pick up my laundry. I should have guessed since a hotel was involved that it might be a little expensive but when they bring it back two days later never in my wildest dreams, did I think they would IRON the sheets and pillowcases and Steve's shirts & shorts – crazy !!! What did I say at the top of this blog ASK THE PRICE FIRST, won't forget again.
Monday late afternoon Frank the harbor master came by and said we needed to adjust our boat lines since our solar panels were hanging over the walkway and he was afraid someone would get hurt. We had had this conversation with another boater and agreed, BUT if we moved the boat out any further we could not get off, even if we put the dinghy behind the boat in the water the dock was too high to climb up on to, and the marina staff helped tie us off this way. We did tape plastic bags with bright color paper on the corners to act as a warning flag. Frank said we still needed to do something so he got us a passerelle (gangplank) that 2 marina staff dropped off. Steve & I tried to get it to work on our own but we could not get it secured so I called back saying we needed some help and next thing we knew 2 dinghies & 2 golf carts came up to help. It took us about 30 minutes to rig it up right but we got it done. Still a little overhang onto the walkway but Frank came by to check and said that it would work. Still a little tricky getting on & off have to be careful not to hit our heads or trip over the lines holding the passerelle in place.
Tuesday there is a polo match so I rented a golf cart and gave Bill & JoAnne a ride up to the hotel pool then back to the boat where Steve is finishing up changing the oil on the engine & generator and start putting the boat back together. Riding a golf cart around the marina you feel like 10 – 15 MPH is a good speed, out on the nice paved roads it feels really slow. So slow my leg was hurting from pressing the petal down so hard trying to make it go faster (it did not). This was an electric cart but even other electric carts were passing me :(. I needed a sign that said sorry- I am going as fast as I can. You probably had to be there but it was pretty funny.
Steve & I go up to the hotel at 4:30 to pick up Bill & JoAnne to go across the road to the polo fields to watch a game, the first time for all 4 of us to see a polo match. It was fun but by 6 we were ready to head back to the marina for happy hour watching the sun set. Wednesday Ultra leaves the marina to go over to Isla Catalina, we were staying for one more day to do another boat project, polish the stainless on the arch since we are backed into the dock it is easy to reach. Wednesday night there is another party in the marina with free drinks and heavy hors derves for the Toy Box grand opening, they are located next to the Mistral Bar & restaurant who provided the food & drinks and had a great musician. The Toy Box is a concierge service company for the “ villa clients and yachts, super yachts and mega yachts” there wording but I guess it included us cruisers also.
We had planned to leave Thursday morning meeting up with Ultra back at marina Zar Par, but heard of another free party with live Jazz Thursday night at the Azimut cafe so decided to stay one more day. Steve had been working almost non stop for a few days and was looking forward to an easy day before getting underway. Thursday morning we get a hold of Ultra to let them know of our change in plans. Steve had one little project to do – grease the main roller furling track, and with the light winds it was a good morning to do it. He got it done just in time for the rain which lasted all afternoon. Our final night event was not as good as the other two, just free Chivas scotch which I do not drink or champagne and only nuts and cheese for snacks. They did have some paintings from 3 local artist on display that were really good, they had to move them inside along with the people as we had a light evening shower for a few minutes. Back to the boat by 8:30 for dinner and to get the boat ready for an early morning departure.
8 AM Friday morning Steve goes to check out with the marina then with the Coast Guard to get our despacho to go back to Boca Chica. He comes back at 8:30 with several marine staff so we can hand off the passerelle then we need them to ease off the stern lines so we can bring the dinghy back and haul it up. We leave the dock to go circle around in front by the fuel dock so Steve can secure the dinghy, tying the lines so it does not swing / move while underway. By 9 we are heading out the channel, under gray skies with a cool temperature of 76°, calm seas and light winds to start so just put up the main sail. By 9:30 winds have picked able to carry the genoa and and turn off the motor. We have a great sail, winds build during the day so first put a reef in the genoa then a 2nd reef and one in the main. Average speed of 8, hitting 10.6 with one wind gust. We were outside the marina trying to get them on the radio by 2, took them a while to answer and they gave us a choice of going back to our old slip or since the winds were still blowing they had a side tie slip available which we took. All tied up by 3, washed down the boat and called Ultra who was out on a marina mooring close by. Ultra came by for drinks and to make plans our future travels west.
link to pictures; https://plus.google.com/photos/103931849054358791487/albums/5860094853534020049?authkey=CMDO6N_aiKqQWA