North Coast, Dominican Republic
21 May 2011 | Manzanillo Bay
Men were hand raking, shoveling, and transporting salt to drying sheds in wheelbarrows. Hard work to bring you your sea salt!
We made a decision in Puerto Plata to agree with Frank Virgintino, that the DR is part of the Caribbean, and we would be in no hurry to head further south. As a result, instead of motoring east right away for Puerto Rico, we decided to head west and see some of the other towns of the DR. We used our charts, Frank Virgintino's DR cruising guide, and some of Bruce Van Sant's guide, although we had to follow the Van Sant guide backwards as he assumes you are headed east. Most of the areas we visited did not have any internet available to us. Although we sometimes saw a signal, it was encrypted and apparently required a phone call to activate. Since we don't have a local phone, enough Spanish skills to talk to a local on the phone, nor the desire to pay for a connection, we didn't try to connect or update the blog for a few weeks. Here's what we did encounter:
We anchored in about 12 feet of water as the guide suggests, in somewhat murky water and poor visibility. At 2 in the morning, as the wind shifted and the tide went out, it sounded like the anchor chain was scraping on our second anchor, although visually it wasn't. I think we were scraping on a rock mentioned in the Van Sant guide, so we moved out to a depth of 15 feet and re-anchored with no further excitement. The following morning we took the dinghy to a small beach at the park, and had a local guide (who spoke no English) take us through the museum and grounds of La Isabella for a 200 RD ($5) admission. We were the only tourists there, and our guide explained everything to us in Spanish. We picked up a bit, enhanced by our reading that this was the first settlement of European settlers in the New World, established by Christopher Columbus. We saw the site of his home, and a number of neat artifacts in the museum before moving on.
A picturesque town with lots of tour boats to take tourists to a nearby sand cay. We picked our way around the anchorage looking for a good spot and finally anchored in 22 feet of water in sand. Although not a navigation hazard, there were numerous coral patches to avoid when anchoring. I snorkeled on several of these, but they did not appear to be teeming with life. We were visited by the local coast guard contingent, who took our despacho (clearance out of Puerto Plata bound for Boca Chica) and told us we'd have to get a new one when we were ready to move on. We did so the next morning, discovering we traded our computer generated despacho for a hand-written one cut from a composition book with a razor blade! The simple life was apparent as we walked through the rustic town, seeing laundry spread on bushes to dry as we walked among the chickens and dogs on the dirt roads, occasionally passed by a motorbike. We left that afternoon for
We had a nice downwind sail towards El Morro, the flat topped mountain which is the dominant geographic feature in the area. After dropping the sails and finding a nice spot in the lee of El Morro to anchor, we again were visited by the Marina de Guerra, who did not seem to mind the hand written despacho. Having satisfied them that we were not running drugs or illegal immigrants, we tidied up the boat just in time to hunker down for the first rain shower we'd seen in a while.
The next day we took the dinghy to the Club Nautico and after some locals assisted us in securing it to the seawall, walked past the salt pans into town. We found the cheapest beer of our travels here, a "grande" bottle (about 20 oz) for 50 RD, about $1.33, and loaded up on local produce from the street vendor. We had a great lunch of chicken with rice and beans at a waterfront restaurant, but we made the mistake of ordering two entrees, and wound up taking almost a full one back to the boat. The following morning we got our new despacho (a Xerox form hand filled in), and left for
Enroute we stopped in the Siete Hermanos marine park at the cay of Tororu. We took the dingy to the beach with our snorkel gear, but did not see a good entry point from the lee side, and the seas were a bit rough to try snorkeling the windward side of the reef. We got in a nice beach walk around the cay, and left after lunch for Manzanillo Bay. There was a nice protected anchorage surrounded by mangroves about three miles from the commercial pier. Other than an anchored commercial boat and one fishing boat, we were the only ones in the anchorage, which was dead quiet and calm. Since we didn't get any visitors, we took the dinghy to the Commandancia the following morning, and found our first officer that spoke some English. He was very helpful and friendly, and was concerned that he wouldn't be able to provide security on the other side of the bay. We agreed to move closer to town after our visit, and with a handshake we walked into town amidst the tractor trailers loading and unloading the one freighter at the town pier. We spent about an hour in the internet café downloading weather and email ($0.75) among the high schoolers checking their Facebook accounts, had a beer ($2 for the grande) and some empanadas ($3.70 for 2 and a coke). We got some more veggies at the local stores, then returned back to the boat and re-anchored in front of the Commandancia. It was a bit noisier until the commercial boat at the dock finished loading bananas and departed, but overall not too bad. We got our despacho from the Commandante on Friday afternoon and left Saturday morning, bound for the Windward Passage and a trip around Haiti to the south coast of the DR.