Turks & Caicos to Luperon, Dominican Republic (DR) to Samana’, DR
April 3, 2015:
It looks like today is the last full day of our “vacation” in Samana’. I probably shouldn’t type that for any non-cruisers to read. Our whole life’s a vacation, right? Well, not really. It’s a different way of life that is adventurous and chocked full of wonderful experiences, but it’s not a vacation. In fact, coming back to our land-home feels more like a vacation in some ways. I may have said it before; life on Nancy Lu is simpler and more laid back. But just about everything that we do on a daily basis is more difficult. Anyway, for the last 6 days we’ve been tied up at a marina—a marina at a resort!! We don’t often come into marinas, and we hardly EVER go to one that’s with a resort! That makes for a VACATION! I’ll bring you up to speed on how we got here to Puerto Bahia Marina in Samana’, DR. starting in the Turks & Caicos where I left off my last blog entry.
We stayed in Sapodilla Bay in the Turks and Caicos for 3 days—A few happenings there:
Along with s/v Lagniappe, we took a 4 mile dinghy ride over to Southside Marina where some of our group was docked,
and hitchhiked to an IGA grocery store (see what I mean about every day things being more difficult, BUT they’re adventurous!) As soon as we entered the town, it felt like we were back in Florida. While we were in the grocery store, I kept forgetting we weren’t actually in Florida. Providentiales, Turks & Caicos is definitely high end!
Back at the marina thanks to another hitched ride, we visited with the other Chat-n-Chill Rat Pack group there.
One day, Mark hitchhiked into town from NL with s/v Lagniappe and s/v Jump to buy a paper chart of the Dominican Republic.
The next day, he went with Sandra Louise at 7:00 in the morning with the mission of meeting a man, Jose’, that Sandra Louise had met the day before so that Jose’ could take Mark up just a few blocks from the beach to fill 3 jerry jugs with fuel. Well, 1 jerry jug flew out of the back of the truck so he only got 2 filled, and the whole mission took half a day because Jose, a “Belonger”, took them with him on his work rounds for the morning. He’s a self-employed pool guy. A “Belonger” is a term for natives of Turks & Caicos or their descendants. 90% of Belongers are directly descended from survivors of an illegal ship carrying African slaves that sank in 1841. Since Slavery was abolished in England (Turk & Caicos is a British Territory) in 1834, they were free in this new land where they settled. Belonger is an honorable title—everyone else who lives here are just called “residents”. I missed all the excitement,
which included coconut water tasting, visiting the pretty vacation homes that he services, and hearing all the local stories, but Mark said my ears were better off because of all of Jose’s “colorful language”. Hey, Ronald’s and other cruisers’ language is often more than my ears are comfortable with hearing, so I guess Mark was right! Still I was bummed.
That night Mark took me out to eat a nice dinner. We saw Rod and Deb from s/v SiBella as soon as we got the dingy anchored; they offered us a ride in their rental car and joined us for dinner! I’m glad ‘cause it was a long walk, and would have been difficult in the dark. Ronald and Sandra showed up at the restaurant just as we were getting ready to leave.
On to the next few stops:
The morning of March 22, we left Sapodilla Bay at 7:15 with Jump, Lagniappe, and of course, Sandra Louise to sail to Ambergris Cay.
A lone dolphin escorted us out. I think it was the famed JoJo who has lived in these parts for 25 years and always travels alone. We got to Ambergris Cay at about 3:30pm—a short sail. I had to look out for coral heads for most of the way, but it was pretty fun. When we got there, I jumped in the water and checked out one of the awesome coral heads like we had been avoiding all day! We spent the night and left the next morning late so that we would have the right kind of light to watch for coral heads on our way to Big Sand Cay, which was the next destination on our journey south. I didn’t even remember we’d gone to Ambergris Cay until I read back through my journal!!
On our way to Big Sand Cay on March 23,
I had been keeping a sharp eye out for whales the whole time I was standing on the bow or sometimes boom (which was not the whole time we were sailing), and I finally saw one breeching over and over again (like in that life insurance commercial) not long before we pulled into our anchorage that afternoon, but the whale was about a mile away—too far for the GoPro video camera. Does it even count if I didn’t get it on video? I guess so, but if you want to spot whales, hanging with the Stanleys is not your best bet! We don’t have a very good track record when we’re actually looking for them.
At Big Sand Cay, we joined up with about 10 other boats from the Chat-n-Chill Rat Pack. Each anchorage has given us another opportunity to solidify the group and get to know members of it better. We all have an email list that Mark put together and email each other from time to time. Mark keeps everyone up to date on weather reports. The water and beach at Big Sand Cay was some of the most clear and beautiful I have ever seen!! Some of us gathered on the beach that evening to join others already there and take a look around. Many of us did some shelling on the other side of the island the next morning, and I found a sought-after heart bean among other things. I want Mark to sand and polish it, and I’ll put it in a pretty pink velvet pouch with a poem for granddaughter #1! Mark helped Sandra Louise with something on his boat while I went shelling. That afternoon, we both worked on cleaning the bottom of Nancy Lu while we were anchored there in that lovely water waiting to get on the way to the DOMINICAN REPUBLIC!!!! All of us left at various times that afternoon and evening. Some left as early as 1:00pm. Jump, Sandra Louise and we waited until about 6:00pm in order to make Luperon at daybreak. The Passages South “guru” says that’s how to do it. We timed it perfectly! Some of our group didn’t even get to Big Sand Cay until that day, March 24, and they left even later than we did. It worked out for them, as well!
WE MADE IT TO THE DR!!!!! SO EXCITING!!! ANOTHER LANGUAGE IS SPOKEN HERE AND EVERYTHING!!! TIMMY, I’VE A FEELING WE’RE NOT IN THE BAHAMAS ANYMORE!!
Our too-short time in the Dominican Republic:
All of us were super excited about making it to the Dominican Republic on March 25. It is so much different from the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos! There are mountains and jungles! All night we (it seems that most of the women take the wee-hours-of-the-morning watch shift) talked off and on to each other about our excitement. When we were about 10 miles off the coast at about 5:00am in the still pitch black—no moon to speak of that night—I could smell the fertile soil. That’s really an understatement. The smell permeated the air! It was the same smell as reached my nose when making mud pies as a little girl—good “clean” DIRT!
The sun began to rise over the next miles and hours
to reveal the Dominican Republic!!
As the haze burned away, it got more and more beautiful!
We were in the lead coming into the harbor by this time.
A little boat came out to meet us and guide us in by using hand signals. At least that’s what we thought was going on, and we were right!
Sandra Louise was right behind us. We radioed information back to the rest of our “fleet”.
The guide boat was very helpful. There was one part that he guided us a little differently than the course we had plotted in our electronic plot charter, and we decided to follow him. He guided us safely in, and never asked us for any money. Apparently, he does this service for most boats that come into the tricky “hurricane hole” harbor.
Once we were in the mooring field, Papo took over in leading us to one of his $2.00 per night moorings (compare that to $20 in the Bahamas or even $30 some places in the U.S.) Papo and Handy Andy are the go-to men in the harbor at Luperon. They have moorings,
sell the Dominican Republic courtesy flag for $10.00, arrange tours for cruisers, and bring out fuel and ice to the boats among other things. Papo was the one who brought the Commandante’ of the Navy and various other customs officials out to our boat soon after we got moored. Papo speaks a little English and was helpful in our dealings with these men on our boat during that stage of our check-in procedure. There is talk among cruisers of corruption among officials—asking for money that is not required—but we had a very pleasant experience with the guys on our boat. I had made some cookies and coffee to serve them as we were being guided down the channel to the harbor. They passed on the coffee, but seemed to enjoy the cookies. No money was asked for or paid at this point.
The next step was to go up the leaning government dock having been warned not to use the broken ladder and proceed on to the little building that houses at least 3 different offices. We had all of our papers with us: our dispatch papers from the Turks & Caicos, our boat registration, and our passports. First, we were pointed towards the door on the right. Here, we checked the boat in and got a little “tourist card” for each of us at $10.00 a piece. Then we were told to go to the door on the left and check in with immigration.
He stamped our passports, and we paid our money to him. He warned us that when we went to any other ports in the Dominican Republic, we were not required to pay an additional fee. Nice to know. After this, we were told to go back to the other office where we paid a 20.00 fee to the agricultural department, and they advised us that they would come out to our boat later that day. The whole process was pretty painless. We read varying reviews on an online sight that Mark uses, Active Captain. The reviews were mixed—some people speak about their horrible experience, and others give a report closer to what we experienced. We tried to be polite and humbly work our way around the language barrier. This seemed to be key to our pleasant experience.
The young man in the office (I don’t know what his title is) told us many times that they like it when boats like us come in with smiles on our faces and no problemos….be kind. All of the boats in our group experienced the same fees which was about $150.00 total. That jived with most of what we read on Active Captain.
After we checked in, we joined some other Chat-n-Chill Rat Pack members for lunch to celebrate this milestone in our journey south. We were all very excited to have accomplished getting to the Dominican Republic and were looking forward to exploring. I had pasta with lambi (that’s what they call conch in the DR). The bowl was like Mary Poppins’ bag; I ate and ate, but the amount of pasta never seemed to diminish. It was delicious; although, I was sick when I got back to the boat . I think my system couldn’t handle that much shellfish.
Oh well, at least I was back on the boat and had hoisted the DR courtesy flag before the purge began! I was good as new once I had gotten it all out of my system.
Sadly, our time in Luperon was short. We took a decent weather window that came just 3 days after we arrived on March 28 to continue east to Puerto Rico. Before we left Luperon,
I enjoyed walking down the streets of this small town,
and joining all but 2 of our Chat-n-Chill Rat Pack group for a tour to the Dominican Repuplic-style amusement park, 27 natural waterfall slides (I can’t remember the name of the river). The day included transportation and a WONDERFUL buffet-style, all-you-can-eat meal. I discovered a spice that was used in the rice and beans and meat dishes at our lunch there. It tasted somewhat like cilantro, but it looked different—long leaves. It was delicious! Papo arranged the tour. When he was at our boat, he told us that the actual sliding down the waterfalls was a separate charge of $13.00. So the whole day was $50.00 a person—not bad! Apparently, Papo neglected to tell some of the other boats this bit of information, so that made for some dissatisfied customers at the beginning, but most of them were able to get over it and go ahead and enjoy the day. When we were told that closed toed shoes were required, another bit of information we were not informed of ahead of time,
one young couple decided that the 2.00 fee to rent some shoes was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. They decided to bail out on principle; I felt really bad for Meagan and Daniel. I’m pretty sure that some of the problems of this nature that arise are due to the language barrier. Anyway, we had a blast!! Our three guides were very attentive and the scenery was beautiful! Everyone had a great time—especially the kids!
The next day, while the 2 boats of our group that didn’t do the waterfall trip the day before were off having their fun,
we had lunch in town again at the same restaurant—no problems this time—I had a calzone.
I had bagged up some laundry in hopes of getting it done by one of the several ladies that I had seen doing laundry out on the street the day before. Coincidentally, one of these ladies was sitting with some of our group that were already at the restaurant, so we made the arrangements —easy peasy! We also needed to go to the navy headquarters to visit the Commandante’ to get our dispatch papers in preparation for leaving the next day.
The navy headquarters was located over a rickety bridge that spans the sewage-filled stream that empties into the harbor where we were moored. Needless, to say, we never got into the water of the harbor.
I did see a man harvesting oysters, I’m afraid our American immune systems aren’t equipped to protect us from what might be lurking in that water. Hmm, I wonder where they harvested the lambi/conch I had for lunch that day that I got sick?
The Commandante’ was not in the office when we got there or later when we were told to return, so Mark ended up having to go back the next morning, the morning of our departure to get our dispatch papers. He wasn’t too happy about that.
The night before we left, Mark and I joined a couple others of our group, s/v UNO, s/v Gypsy Spirit, s/v Raven, and s/v Island Hopper for karaoke night at Wendy’s, a local bar where the sign says: Gringos Welcome! The only time I’d ever done karaoke was at a Cedar Creek Bible Church ladies’ retreat and I was TERRIBLE! To tell the truth, I was really just hoping that there would be dancing at Wendy’s karaoke night! As expected, I was even worse at karaoke at Wendy’s than I was at the CCBC ladies’ retreat, especially since I chose a song that I realized pretty quickly I really only know the chorus to. It was still pretty fun to sing Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” with Steve from UNO rounding out our little trio! As usual, Mark and I were the first to leave the party, and that was it for our time in Luperon!
We left the next day with s/v UNO, s/v Glass Slipper, s/v Ally Cat and s/v Raven taking a weather window that wasn’t great, but acceptable to get all the way to Puerto Rico if we chose to go that far. We left behind Jump, Lagniappe, Tangent, Lequesteau, Gypsy Spirit, and Island Hopper to take their chances at getting another weather window later. We had planned a couple ditch points if we needed to use them.
It turned out that we decided to tuck into one of those planned ditch points, Sosua, only about 20 miles from Luperon for a couple of hours to wait until dark (when winds die down) to continue on.
When we left touristy Sosua around 7:00pm, it wasn’t too long before we decided that we had not waited long enough, so we all turned around and went back until about midnight. Glass Slipper decided to head back to Luperon the next morning due to health reasons instead of going on with us at midnight. So we said good-bye to Mary and her 13 year old daughter Colleen at this point. It was especially hard for Ally Cat and UNO to say good-bye to these travelling companions since they are all “kid boats” and have been travelling together for a while. Thankfully, this time, conditions were much better, and we traveled the rest of the night and the next day east along the north coast of Dominican Republic and around the tip of a peninsula to Samana’.
The BREAK-OUT-INTO-SONG-SPECTACULAR vistas of the north coast totally made up for the uncomfortable afternoon and evening that we endured the day before.
We pulled into the swanky marina at Samana’ at dusk—perfect timing! Not one of us made the choice to keep going on to Puerto Rico. We needed a break! It was time to be pampered for a few days before going on to Puerto Rico starting with a nice dinner at one of the restaurants. Our fingers were crossed for another decent weather window!
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned our shadow-boat, Sandra Louise, in a while. Well, it turned out that
after a nice visit with them on our boat the first afternoon in the Luperon, we woke up the next morning to find them GONE! We knew they had chosen NOT to check into the Dominican Republic for various reasons. They claimed safe harbor there in Luperon, got themselves a chart of the Dominican Republic and left early in the morning for Puerto Rico (armed with their own chart, but with no way to get weather reports, and without their security boat, us). We wondered what had happened to them. Well, guess who was there when we pulled into Sosua!! That’s right, Sandra Louise. They had been there the whole time. I assume they couldn’t get off their boat that whole time, having not cleared into the country. They had been trying to leave every night without any weather reports with horrible results. They decided to continue on with us after hearing our plans and based on the weather reports that we gave them, but left a few hours later than our midnight departure. They never caught up with us. Ironically, they continued on to Puerto Rico without the security of the rest of the Rat Pack, and had a nice crossing to Puerto Rico. We know this because of the emails that we’ve received!
We’ve been in Samana’ since March 29, and we’re planning on leaving tomorrow, April 4.
The lobby here is relaxation materialized, and you can get a delicious cup of coffee at the bar there. The showers available for use by marina customers are luxurious with rainfall shower heads. There are at least 2 infinity pools, an exercise room, a spa, and nice restaurants! Unfortunately, I got sick, running high fever while we were here in Samana’, so I didn’t get to take advantage of all the amenities or enjoy everyone’s company as much as Mark did . Sometimes my fever would break and I’d go take a shower
or go sit in the lobby with Timmy. Every time I was off the boat, I wore the same dress. It will forever be known as my Samana’ outfit!
One time, I even sat by the pool with Ally from Ally Cat and Sue from UNO for a little while until my fever returned, but
I missed eating dinner on UNO’s boat one night,
and every night Mark would join at least some of the Chat-n-Chill Rat Pack up at the lobby to visit. I think I missed all of those times.
I missed a trip into the town of Samana’ with our group via taxi to the SuperMercado (grocery store), but Mark got some good local produce. He even got that spice that I liked so much at lunch at the 27 Waterfalls. I’ve since found out that it’s called Culantro—not Cilantro. It tastes similar, but it’s a different plant. It is called Shado Beni in the Carribean and has various other names—YUMMY!
I REALLY hated to miss the horseback riding excursion that our group went on!!
They had a wonderful time!! They rode past villages and waterfalls, stopping for a swim. In one village, they stopped to sample local foods, coffee and hot chocolate. Mark bought some coconut spread there. Others bought vanilla and chocolate. They galloped along a beach and stopped at a pavilion for a delicious lunch (I’m told). Mark bought some produce from a woman on the beach.
I’m better now in time to take a decent weather window to go to Puerto Rico. I would like to stay behind and explore the Dominican Republic more with Ally Cat and UNO, but I want to get to Puerto Rico so I can catch a flight to go visit Ethan and Kristin in Fort Worth for a few days. Also, I got a facebook message from Cathy Addison, a friend of at least 20 years from the Cedar Creek Lake area. She and her family have since moved to Colorado. She told me their whole family is going to be in Puerto Rico near where we are going from the 7th to 14th, so that is an incentive to get going from the DR. We’re leaving the evening of the 4th along with Raven and Bueller, one of our Rat Pack group that we hadn’t seen since we left George Town, but they showed up in Samana’ a few days after we’d been there. Our group is getting spread out!