February 6, 2016 , Los Hiatuses National Park, Bahia Samanà, D.R.
It was a bit of a squally rainy day the morning we left for Los Hiatuses National Park.
"Doesn't matter" I said. "We're on Moby Dick patrol"
"And WaterMaking Procedures" replied the Capt'N, in all seriousness.
We departed our marina berth, coiled up our lines, brought in our fenders and motored out. All systems go for the watermaker, camera at the ready, and we kept busy scanning the waterlines for any suspicious waterspouts or humps arising.
Although the skies were dark and grey, the rains never bothered us as we slowly meandered across the Bay,
the shoreline eventually emerging from the grey mists,
like something out of one of those movies!
We had initially asked the Comandante, Mr Shepard of the Marina Guerra, if we could go visit the Los Hiatuses National Park and he had said, one night, possibly. Maybe. Shrugged his shoulders in a Perhaps type of way.
One of the formalities when visiting the Dominican Republic requires you to check with Customs, Immigration, Marina Guerra, Drug Inspection, etc, etc when departing AND arriving, and arriving only at designated ports that house the above Officers, at each and every stop, which makes it all, rather... tedious and often hard to explore.
When we asked him again the day before we wanted to leave, he gave us until Monday. Since we were coming right back to the marina we did not need a Despacho.
"Hold on to your hats, look how fast we're going!!"
And only with the jib !! Since we needed to make water it all worked out beautifully as we had to slow ourselves down to cover the ~10 nm at a no wind, jib only, sailboat type of pace, for the next 3-4 hours.
But, how could you ask for anything better when the skies started to clear just as we entered the San Lorenzo Bay.
"How do you pronounce Haitises anyways" asked the Capt'N.
"High-tee-sis" I answered, glad I had done some research with the internet we had had back at the Marina. There was going to be no connectivity here.
Located at the western end of Bahìa Samanà, the park was established in 1976. The Taínos reigned there, and in their language, Haiti means highland or mountain ranges. It has become quite the ecotourism experience, and features mangrove swamps, a varied and lush landscape, with caves to explore.
We anchored deep in Bahìa de San Lorenzo, near the Cano Chiquito, and were (perhaps) surprised to see ourselves being the only boat there. One rev back was all that was needed to satisfy ourselves that the anchor was set in the muddy bottom. Permanently.
The water was green here. Clear, and not dirty, just reflecting the lush green grasses of the bottom back at us. And that's when we noticed the jellyfish. Large desert plate sized translucent blobs of jellies floating about in swarms and clouds.
"There will be no swimming here" I declared, intending to not even drop one big toe in with any blobs the size of that !!
Once the engine off, the silence descend upon us, along with the heat of the emerging sun and lack of any noticeable wind. Our boat sat as still as a land-based house, and we felt, instantly, alone.
"Look hon, the skies are blue and the sun is out, perfect to go Adventuring !!" I whispered, even my words feeling like screams in the stillness that had suddenly descend upon us, like a wet, humid blanket.
We got the dinghy ready, packed some water, and off we went,
heading towards shore, the limestone cliffs jutting up and out and around in dramatic, irregular formations that made the landscape so fascinating. So pretty. So unique.
This is home to the Brown Pelican, and there were quite a few fighting for their perch, and then resting
on the many perches of what might have been once an old dock,
And then, yikes, that's when our outboard started to smoke. Triple yikes. A few quick checks confirmed it was overheating. No water coming out.
We had no radio, not that there would have been anyone to call, or anyone listening. We had no phone, again, not that there would have been anyone to call. We had ourselves and our oars. And some water.
So we rowed back. Past the Dock,
and all the way around the cliffs looking for the shortest distance back.
The sounds around us few and remote. We were accompanied along our journey with the occasional far-off splash of the Pelicans as they dove into the waters. The frigate birds circling overhead. The splash of our oars as they propelled us along, slowly, one oar stroke at a time. We felt small. Insignificant. Almost Lost. Alone. And yet awed by it all.
And we continued to row. All the way back to Banyan, which was anchored by herself, deep, way deep down in the Bay.
(...to be continued...)
February 5, 2016 , Puerto Bahía, Samanà, Dominican Republict
Doing what I love to do: Photo Me In.
The Dominican Republic is often overlooked and even nay-nayed by Cruisers as a possible Adventurin' destination.
Mostly over reports of ridiculousness trying to clear with C&I, rampant requests for bribes, corrupt officials, the need for despacho's with every single boat displacement. And you know what? Cruisers just want to be free !!
On our way South four years ago, we had two back-to-back cold fronts that allowed us to downwind sail from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico, in three successive ~220 nm jumps apiece. Back then we stayed two nights in Ocean Marina for the worst of the blow, and then we were off again, so really didn't get a chance, or make much of a chance, to explore.
This time we are planning to spend more than 2 nights here, unless the weather changes (wink wink). Our point of entry: Samanà.
We'd done lots of research before coming here, trying to determine just what is what. One thing we knew for sure was that it would be easier if we went straight into a marina. And that we would need a despacho for entrance/exit to every port of call.
We read that "The ship's papers, passports and clearance certificate from your last port must be presented... A new law started the 1 of July that will make arrival and departure easier, less expensive and nicer."
Reading Active Captain reviews someone indicated that it was hard to hail the marina. What follows is the actual exchange, just as it happened.
"Puerto Bahia Marina, Puerto Bahia Marina, this is Sailing Vessel Banyan, on one six"
A waiting period of about two minutes, and then we tried again.
"Puerto Bahia Marina, Puerto Bahia Marina, this is Sailing Vessel Banyan, on one six"
A crackling and some squelching and then we heard.
"...Puerto... Marina... si"
"Yes good day Sir. This is Sailing Vessel Banyan.
"Do you have a working channel we can move to"
"This channel works perfect".
I think their English is just fine.
Given the calm conditions, and with many extra hands to offer assistance if needed, it was an extremely easy process to back into our slip, the hardest part getting our starboard line over the mooring post, what with me being short and all.
"Lady, Lady..." asked the tallest of the Marina Staff, making a motion that he would do it. I motioned him onboard, and sure enough, one lasso hoop and it was done. Le Sigh. A baseball player I was not born to be.
Once the lines were secure, the "muchas gracias" exchanged, everyone seemingly disappeared and the peaceful calmness that reigns here returned.
With our yellow Q-Flag flying, our immediate next step was to check in, and with Best Shirt Forward, the Capt'n headed to their Office, conveniently located in the the Hotel Complex.
The Immigration officer copied our Passport information into her log, handed us the stamped document, and we paid a fee of $94, apparently a compilation of several different fees, but who knows? There is not one agreement anywhere for a standardized list of rates. The Immigration Lady spoke not one word of English, nor did she try much, for an Official.
Both the Coast Guard (Marina Guerra) and the Drug (Intelligence) Officers followed Dave back to the boat, and in broken English welcomed us to the Dominican Republic.
When asked about our intentions, we told him we were staying in the marina for a few days, and might want to visit the Hiatises National Park. We were to inform him the day before we wanted to go, and he could perhaps, maybe, arrange a one-night visit.
"One Night?" we looked at each other, aghast. But now was not the time, we blinked understandingly at each other.
He did, in broken English, inform us that there was no charges to any of this. He insinuated that some people in some places charge dollars for this service, but that is wrong. He, here, does not ask for money. Same goes for despacho's, they do not officially cost anything, so we should never have to pay for one, anywhere.
However, if we felt we wanted to give him something, a little bit for his efforts, we could. (Note: we didn't, but are considering, when we leave, to offer him a little something extra).
He said that usually boats get inspected by the Drug/ Intelligence Officer, sitting beside him and easily identifiable as such by the red sneakers, black jeans, and red and white T-Shirt, more interested in his phone than us. Who quickly dismissed us with a imperceptible shake of his head, replied "No Necesito"
They left, and we felt rather, bemused and confused at the process, but glad it went well. Such a prolific presence that amounted to... not much.
When Dave had checked us into the Marina, Gavi had mentioned that he would give us a tour, so we locked up the boat and walked over to get our bearings.
I did what I love to do best, venture forth with camera in hand.
There are a few restaurants on site. The Compass Lounge bar in the Reception Area of the Hotel, the Cafe del Mar (with its own infinity pool staring out at the bay), La Regata which is right next to the mini-market on site (don't get your hopes up, it's rather small, but has some goodies), laundry facilities (apparently), a lounge area (complete with pool table and comfy chairs), and as we climbed the stairs to the second level.
"And oh look Dave..." I exclaimed as my nostrils inhaled the aroma of massage oils, "A Spa..."
We kept on walking. Past the Gym. And the Showers. The upstairs Infinity Pool and Lounge Area,
right next to the Le Deauville restaurant and coffee bar, open for breakfast only.
Our previous marina stop in Palmas del Mar had us working non-stop for a week: just a-,scrubbin' and a-washin' and a-provisionin' and a-waxin' and a-cleanin' and a-organizin'. Was this the... Ultimate Reward?
The Marina is surrounded by countless coconut trees all around us, on gorgeously landscaped grounds (as is typical with Resort-like settings).
and look, even a Rainbow!!
A lovely afternoon in the infinity pool that overlooks the "Largest Bay" in the Caribbean.
"Can I have a Presidente" asked Dave?
"Si, Excellente" replied the kind waiter, attentive to our every needs.
We swam and lounged and watched the sun go down,
and behind us, the Cafe del Mar all lit up.
Prices are American style. The beer $2.50 and my Caipirinha $6.50, the server quiet but always and ever attentive to refill, everything quite spectacular in a perfect resort type of way,
from the Setting of the Sun, to the starlings which sang and flitted about the palm trees, all ensconced by the Feng-Shui'd music quietly enveloping us as we melted into the landscape.
And when the final rays of sun disappeared,
We felt the rush of peacefulness that Relaxin' brings.