April 2012, Dominican Republic

San Martin, April 4th, 2012
Happy to finally leave St Martin, we lift the anchor to Dominican Republic. Not that St Martin is an unpleasant place but it was a stopover too technical for our taste (purchase of gear, engine repairs, water tank, fishing an old bike etc..).
Fortunately we were able to meet up again with our friend-boat “Rivière”, which allowed Noé to invite friends on board to celebrate his birthday. He chose to celebrate it on the 1st of April, because on his birthday he was still victim of a bad sore throat which has earned a trip to the doctor: “You must treat me doctor, and quickly because today I’m 5 “. Not that he wanted to put pressure on the doctor …

To join the Dominican Republic, we decided to go off Puerto Rico, without stopping. Not only because you can not stop everywhere, but it was also a choice not to put our feet into U.S. territory (especially to avoid answering questions such as: “Are you a terrorist? Have you bad intentions? ….)
We therefore arrive in Dom Rep after 4 days of very quiet sailing* (* translation: Captain rattles, it is too calm, we are lagging at 2-3 knots for 3 days. We almost have to blow into the spinnaker to keep it inflated). But it gave us the opportunity to take good showers on the trampoline and prepare Easter.

Before putting one foot on land, the Marina in Boca Chica relieves us of US$ 200 for visas, boating import fees, customs and service charges. Phew … We are feeling better! …   😉
Welcome to Dominican Republic!
We then let the boat to the buoy for a week and rent a car to reach our friends the Jaloux family in Las Terrenas, in the Samana Peninsula. This is the first time we leave the boat alone for so long and I admit it’s a little funny, like a child’s first day at school, we hope that she will not need us during our absence ….
I checked twice the chain and the anchor, but it’s especially the depth that worried me: when swimming to the rear of the boat to go up the ladder, I realized that I could touch the bottom! The rudder is at 50 cm from the bottom! Raoul, the head of the marina, reassures me: “it is low tide and there’s never a wave, no risk”. I didn’t tell Stephanie until we returned, just to be sure she wasn’t going to loose sleep over that.

Las Terrenas,
our first stay on land.
What a luxury to have the sea down the road and the pool next to the house .. A house?!
We had almost forgotten how it could be great too! The ceilings are high! But we aren’t rocked to sleep at night.
We explore the land and the beaches of Samana:
– with a fishing boat in the “Haïtises” to discover its caves, rock paintings and landscapes almost Asian like …


… – or with our small rented car through the pouring rain to meet fishermen for a BBQ on Playa Rincon (top 10 most beautiful beaches on the island! Even in the rain).
Fishermen prepare us a feast …
Menu: grilled fish, rice and beans, banana chips.
… during this time, despite the rain, the children also enjoy the beach and the river (the ultimate luxury to bathe in the sea and rinse in fresh waters ..)
On the way back, the rain is such that the path we took when we arrived had now turned into a torrent of mud.

Las Terrenas is also a haven for French expatriates settled there for decades. There is even a French school of 200 students. The supermarket sells Camembert, blue cheeses, French patisseries, croissants and baguettes.

Back to Boca Chica with Chloé Elliott, Audrey and Vincent, we find our boat intact and prepare for a trip of five days together to Isla Saona. We have just enough time to taste the joys and local customs of Boca Chica during the weekend: half of the boats on ponto are speedboats whose sound-system has nothing to envy to nightclubs. Most of them cast off to the sandbank situated at 200 meters from the marina to anchor for the day or for the evening on board and thoroughly enjoy boozes and loud music from the 80’s.
On the way to Saona Island, about 60 miles, we stop on Catalina Island for the night. This island looks like a large sandbank, which has tamed wild vegetation, beaches lined with coconut trees and “overgrown” with empty deckchairs. It was not until the next morning when we see a big cruising ship that we understand the use of long rows of loungers and palm trees … This is the landing point of hundreds of tourists who spend their day sipping Piña Colada in front of this splendid (crowded) scenery .
Arriving at Saona island, we find the same picture but at around 3pm the beach empties of its daily visitors and we are now all alone. The seasonals (many Haitians) kindly welcome us as travelers and offer us plenty of fresh coconuts. During the day speedboats and catamarans daily charters discharge their contents of roasting bodies on raked whitesand beaches. We are pleased to have “off-beat staggered”schedules that allow us to enjoy the deserted beach before the arrival or after the departure of the tourists; eating lobster and enjoying beautiful turquoise waters.

Boca Chica was our base for exploring Dominican Republic, but also the meeting place with other boaters giving us tips for Haiti and Cuba. We also met Jean-Philippe Moiseau a Haitian painter and sculptor who joined our action: Art-I-Stick Boat.
To our greatest luck we met Chantal Campos and Aurélie Tétue and their association Solaidom where we could organize a cinema session.

Of Dominican Republic we have seen a small part with a sample of the worst (driving on the roads and roundabouts of death) as the best (local people and landscapes). We much preferred the Playa de las Aguilas on Island Beata (huge deserted and wild bay) than the over exploited beaches designed to accommodate their “packs” of all-inclusive tourists.
The boat allows us to discover places inaccessible by land and change our perspective. We would have wanted to explore the north of the island by boat too… Maybe next time?

To see all the pictures follow this link: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjEj4BxD

Olivier

 

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