We’ve been in the Dominican Republic for a little over a month. Our original plan was to stay here 2 weeks and then move on to visit the Bahamas, but plans change. Just like our month in the Canary Islands. Our month in Cape Verde. Our month in Martinique. Things happen and we end up not moving as quickly as some. This doesn’t bother us. We don’t need to move. We don’t even necessarily need to explore. Our life falls into the folds of the place where we are. We do our thing. We kind of settle down.
We first arrived in Samana, a very large bay on the North East of the island. It was a good and direct passage from the BVIs, sailing North of Puerto Rico. For almost 3 weeks we stayed at Puerto Bahia, a small and well-priced marina near Santa Barbara. The marina is adjacent to a 4-star hotel. We could use its pools and its gym. It felt like a mini luxury island.
Our last week there was gray and rainy. One of Pierrick’s daughters came to visit us and she wanted a white-sand beach type of holiday. Samana wouldn’t do. We decided to sail South along the Eastern coast, taking the dreaded Mona Passage. Our destination was Cap Cana. We could easily pick her up at the Punta Cana airport and continue down to the South East.
Leaving Samana Bay was not fun. At all. We sailed into wind and waves. The winds weren’t that strong and the waves weren’t that high. Were we sailing in the opposite direction, everything would have been fine. As it was, the passage was rough. It slightly damaged the boat. I concluded that maybe I had had enough of sailing. Maybe we don’t ever need to sail in such conditions ever again…
The South East has reconciled me with sailing. We’ve travelled from Isla Saona to Isla Catalina, stopping in Bayahibe and Casa de Campo Marina. This area is fun to sail in because winds vary yet the sea remains relatively calm. The coast has beaches and palm trees. People are friendly. There are less tourists than what I expected.
Still, the Dominican Republic clearly is not a land of sailors. Every time you leave a port you need a dispatch from some military personnel authorizing you to go out in the waters. This process can be quick or it can be long, all depending on whether the military personnel is in his office. You are not allowed to just sail around an area (as we did) without the proper authorization. There is no good weather forecasts agency and maps are not very precise. Apparently there are zones were anchoring is prohibited but we have yet to figure out how to make those zones out.
Meanwhile, there is fishing. The fishing for sport kind. In Cap Cana and Casa de Campo, the marinas are filled with big deluxe motored fishing boats from the US, BVIs and Puerto Rico. Americans fly down for a few days of fishing Blue Marlin, and then fly back, leaving a crew of Dominican cleaners in their wake. These boats are pristine.
In Samana, we met a few people who live in the marina, and there is apparently a large community of American sailors up in Luberon. In the South, we are the only ones living on our boat, and I don’t feel very welcomed for it. In Casa de Campo, there is no laundry service. In my view, that’s indicative enough of the type of boat-owners they expect here.
Something that’s particular about the Dominican Republic is its marinas. The 3 that we have visited are all part of huge land domains. By car, you enter by turning off a main road where you arrive at the gatekeepers’ station, much like when entering a National Park in Canada. If you are not on the list, you are not allowed to enter. The domain in Casa de Campo is so big that it takes 15 minutes to drive from the reception to the marina. On the domains there are a number of luxury items: 4 star hotels with pools, spas and a fitness center, houses for the rich and famous (apparently Shakira and Julio Iglesias own homes in Casa de Campo), golfs and equestrian centers. The marinas are just part of what’s on offer. And us sailors who vagabond around the globe are clearly not their target market.
I take advantage of it for what it’s worth. Casa de Campo is beautiful. The houses look like a rich suburb to my North-American sensibilities, but for Europeans they are mansions. The gardens are superbly well kept. They are actually nicer than Santo Domingo’s Botanical Garden. There are a few restaurants that are very good though a tad pricey. I haven’t yet used the gym here because it’s too far!
Originally, we stayed here because of Moody. We needed his bill of health to be cleared before moving on to another country (he needed his yearly shots). Then my step-daughter visited. Now, we are deciding on our next steps. We need to generate some revenue, and how we do that will influence where we go. Hopefully we’ll know by the end of the week.