There are several passages on this trip which give us pause for thought: the Gulf Stream, the Mona Passage…and the 130nm crossing from the T&C to the Dominican Republic. The strait is very deep and is subject to huge swells. The distance necessitates an overnight trip which means that we will not have access to current weather and there are not a lot of bailout options along the way.
With this sense of trepidation, we set off from Big Sand Cay after taking some hilarious “school photos” and having an early dinner. To our pleasant surprise we had favourable winds, so shut off both engines and we were pushing almost 8kts. The only problem is that we needed to arrive at sun-up and at this speed we would arrive at 0400. We discussed pressing on as far as possible along the North coast but were unsure of the ports of entry, customs procedures and the duration of the weather window, so instead reefed the sails and timed our arrival in Puerta Plata for sunrise.
As we approached the coast the first thing we noticed was the smells wafting off the lush coastline. Tobacco, spices, smoke, coffee, earth and a thousand other unidentifiable sources all combined to fill the air with a rich and delicious fragrance. As the sun poked through the clouds we were struck by the rising mountains covered in dense vegetation. After the barren and desolate topography of the Bahamas, the T&C and even S Florida, the contrast was striking.
We pulled into Ocean World which boasted pools, hot water, laundry, and grocery stores…. oh, the small luxuries in life! We only stayed one night at Ocean World which is an enormous marine/Sea World resort complex that was very empty. The customs officials were polite and efficient and we found the Dominicans much more welcoming than the officials at our previous stops.
We thought we had a weather window and wanted to get the north coast of the DR out of the way so we left the following night into what was forecast to be light winds and stable seas….well it wasn’t. Again, pictures never tell the full story but we quickly encountered squalls with winds in excess of 30kts and driving rain as waves crashed against the rocky shoreline.
Our strategy was to hug tight to the shore to take advantage of the katabatic winds to counter the trades but the darkness only hid the danger that existed a half mile to our starboard. Glued to the radar, GPS and depth sounder we coasted the 23hrs around the North shore of the DR and when the sun finally came up, we were treated to a majestic shoreline that rose up out of the surf to greet us.
We entered the marina Puerto Bahia in Samaná just before noon, a little tired but no worse for wear. This area of the DR is remote and undeveloped and the marina is again part of a larger resort that is surprisingly empty. I get the sense that they built the multi-million dollar resort without much market analysis and there seems to me more staff than clientele. After my “build it and they will come” comment in the Bahamas, someone has built it and apparently no one has come. Our more modest needs……..showers, laundry, and wifi make it seem like paradise on earth.
After all those beautiful secluded anchorages, we found ourselves here…. in a rather glitzy marina. Puerto Bahia Marina is…
We rented a car and took off into the jungles of the Samana peninsula on the North East coast of DR. We drove to the waterfalls “Cascada El Limon” and had the option of renting horses, however, you thought they were too skinny and we could easily do with the walk. It was a warm day and when we finally arrived at the Falls you promptly jumped in and swam under them. Mommy drove us all crazy making us pose for photos but it would be a pretty boring blog without them.
After surviving the two-day car rental to see this side of the island we decided to celebrate and go out for dinner in Samana. Holy cow you two clean up well. The weather has not cooperated and we are now waiting for a window to cross the Mona Passage. It looks like we will be here for several more days…. there are worse places to get stuck.