Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hola from Puerto Rico!

Puerto Plata, DR
Leaving Bahamas after a prolonged weather related stay in Mayaguana, we pushed on to the Dominican Republic.  Our intention was to stop in Turks and Caicos to enjoy their remote and pristine cays.  With some engine difficulties and strong prevailing winds, we decided to make a three-day passage to Luperon, DR.  As we approached Luperon, we realized that we would need yacht services not available there including a mechanic, welder and fuel so we altered course for Puerto Plata.  Ocean
Puerto Plata, DR
 World is both a marina and a resort complete with a casino, swimming pools, and opportunities to swim with dolphins or even tigers. We took a cab ride to the grocery store in downtown Puerto Plata for provisions. The energy here was amazing.  Cars and motorbikes buzzing in and out of traffic like we have never seen with three or four people crowded on one scooter. Kids hanging to handlebars and one person we talked to even reported seeing a live calf strapped to the side of a motorcycle.  Driving in Manhattan is easier but we witnessed no accidents.  The city of Puerto Plata is the second oldest in the DR and was a resting stop for Columbus when he first came to the “new world.”
The poverty and limited resources of the DR are starkly apparent in Puerto Plata.

The DR is a beautiful country that occupies 66% of the island of Hispaniola and is part of the Antilles.  The other 1/3 of the island is Haiti, the poorest country in the hemisphere.  While the two countries share the island, they are different in most ways including language, religion, and standard of living.  Dominican people, if one can generalize, are positive and have great pride in their country. 

While in Puerto Plata, we were able to have some work done on the engine as well as have a damaged rail welded.  The marina’s assistant harbor-master, Eddie, was a great help in facilitating all that we needed.  After three days, we pushed off around 11:00 AM and sailed east to Samana on the eastern coast of the DR.  The Navy immediately appeared along Atalanta for our “check in.”  After boarding our boat they indicated that they expected a gratuity (read bribe).  The DR has passed legislation outlawing these “shakedowns”.  Upon refusing to pay, we were told that would need to inspect our boat. The check in process was intimidating and set a very negative tone for our time in what turned our to be a charming village. We left Samana the next day and again had negative encounters with the military upon trying to complete the check out process. 

Samana, DR
Samana was our launching off point to cross the Mona Passage.  This 120-mile crossing is difficult and can present real challenges to the passagemaking sailboat.  Using Bruce Van Sant’s “The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South” we employed his 
Thanks Lawrence for being our Guide
recommendation to leave in the early evening and benefit from the calming winds and seas, using the night lee on both sides of the channel.  Once across and in Puerto Rico, we completed the most difficult portion of the journey.  From this point on we will move at a more leisurely pace, spend more time at each destination, and travel during early morning hours for short hops to discover the next beautiful cove, beach or community. 

Richard and Kay
Checking in at customs in
Mayaguaz, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is the first time in months to experience “American-like” conveniences.  Our cell phones work, there is internet access, well stocked grocery stores and the ability to acquire most of what we need.  We are currently in Boqueron on the SW shore.  It is a lovely place that is quiet and peaceful Monday-Thursday and crazy Friday-Saturday.  We are meeting new friends and rejoining others we met along the way.  Our next stops will be along the southern coast of PR as we inch our way toward the east coast.  We will probably leave Atalanta and Murray for 10 days while celebrating Pat and Rachel’s wedding in Vermont. 

Thanks for following

Richard & Kay

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