Goodbye, Dominican Republic; Hello Puerto Rico!
13 June 2011 | Ponce, Puerto Rico
Plaza Colon (Columbus Square) is popular with tourists and pigeons.
Marina ZarPar in Boca Chica is located along the vacation beach area of the coast. We had lots of people watching as they anchored their boats nearby, or zipped around in the shallow water in windsurfers, dinghys, and jetskis.
For our trip to Santo Domingo, we boarded the local bus which wound through Boca Chica prior to returning to the terminal (free!), and transferring to an "express" bus to Santo Domingo. These have seats like school buses, but are air-conditioned. We paid about $2 each for the trip to the capital, and got off near Liberation Plaza. In the plaza we enlisted the services of a tour guide ($20 with tip), who directed us to several of the historic buildings, and then let us tour the "Alcazar De Colon" on our own. The Alcazar tour ($5 each) included headsets in English which described each room of the Palace, built by Christopher Columbus's son Diego and nicely decked out with originals and reproductions.
We toured a bit on our own after lunch, and then picked up the buses back to Boca Chica to ready the boat for our trip to Puerto Rico. Checking out of the country was rather painless with the help of Raul at the marina, the only difference was that we had our passports stamped in addition to the despacho and boat inspection. This was the only location where the coast guard/intelligence/drug enforcement "officials" asked for a tip, so we offered up some of the small bottles of rum we purchased in Puerto Plata for this purpose.
At $5.62 a gallon, we only took on enough diesel (with a reserve) to get us to Puerto Rico, then motored out of the harbor. We dodged debris from the recent rains as we motorsailed to Catalina Island. It was deserted by the time we got there, but we couldn't locate any sand as indicated in the cruising guide. We finally got the anchor to grab on the hard/rocky bottom, let out a lot of chain, and settled into the rolly anchorage for the night. Up early, we gladly left for Saona, and then decided to keep going to Ponce overnight.
We arrived in Ponce on Sunday afternoon, motored around the anchorage, and wound up out by the entrance channel as the entire anchorage area is filled with boats on mooring balls that don't leave enough room for a boat at anchor to swing. Two more boats pulled in and wound up out near the entrance with us, having drawn the same conclusion.
Back in Riviera Beach, we had submitted all our information to Customs & Border Patrol, and appeared before an officer with our passports, in order to join the "Local Boater Option", a program that is supposed to allow us to call in with our number and password to clear back into the country. This didn't work out too well for us, at least this time. After calling and giving our numbers and passwords, they still wanted all the information we had previously provided, in addition to other information (information that the CBP website didn't state as required for anyone, in the LBO or not), and then I was put on hold for an "arrival number". The officer came back on in a few minutes and told us we had to report to the local office the next morning with passports and boat documentation. Oh well, at least most of the people speak English!