Monday, April 11, 2011

Dominican Republic - Ocean World @ Puerto Plata

Dark is really DARK
Monday, April 11, 2011

Our first cruise in the pitch black of night...  Up at 3:30 AM, pulling anchor about 4:30 for the Dominican Republic, hoping not to wake other boaters at anchor, we were both a little excited.  We knew where the big rock (Edimond Rock) was that some boaters fail to note,  tearing holes in their boats.  With our GPS and Radar, we can easily plot a safe course....still.......a bit of anxiety.    Ah, beautiful cruising at night with the stars all about, with a nice breeze.   There was no bright moon to light the way, but with our finally reliable chart plotter, we quickly relaxed and sat back to enjoy the moment and to wait for the sun to begin peeking over the horizon. 

Making far better time than estimated, we arrived at Ocean World Marina near Puerto Planta about 3:30 PM.   We cruised at at steady 8.5 nautical miles per hour (fast for us) at 1550 RPMs in a current going our way across the North Atlantic Ocean in flat seas.  Taking turns stretching out on the fly bridge couches, we napped or just rested a bit.
Sunrise out in the Atlantic Ocean cruising to Dominican Republic

Hispaniola in the distance
Hoisting the Quaranteen Flag

No activity anywhere around us - we saw only 4 boats off in the distance during the entire day and just a handful of flying fish.  About  35 miles out, the mountains of Hispanola began to appear, curving way around into flatter land.  At first we weren’t certain if it WAS land or clouds low on the horizon.   We thought the flatter portion was Haiti at the north end.   We also wondered if we were seeing Cuba way off to our starboard side and separate from the flatter portion of Haiti.

 It is required that one must hoist a yellow Q (for quarenteen) flag that indicates you are coming into a country and have not cleared Customs nor Immigration.  Once you are on land, you must contact Customs & Immigration; present your papers and passports & receive permission to stay.  Once that has been granted, you are to replace the Q Flag with the flag of the country you have entered. 

Coming into Ocean World Marina

Thankfully, English is spoken well here, making clearing Customs & Immigration at this Marina simple.    All the officials come to your boat immediately upon arrival and then take you back to the office to finish the paperwork.  No ‘tipping’ allowed.  Tipping is a fancy word for ‘bribe’ or ‘thank you’ or just a shake down in some parts of the DR.   The fees were $43 for the boat and $10 a person to clear in. 
Ocean World Marina w Casino, a sea world like show & hotel
Andy & an Ocean World bus
  In this country they don’t understand the concept of just cruising about, dropping the anchor where ever.  We must clear out each time - even if we wanted to go out for the DAY, say to fish!  Each time you clear out you must state where you are going & where you will clear in later.  They give you a "despatcho' and you pay $20 - $23 for each one.    Given the long distances between ports, I’m told that if we drop the hook  before our destination port  in order to break the long trip,  we say we are “pausing” to rest or that the weather forced us to ‘pause’ if an Official comes to check us out.  OK, we get the rules and are prepared.  

After taking on approximately 100 gallons of fuel to top us off (Ugh - Price was $5.75 a gallon), & getting secure along the T head of the docks, we took off to explore before dark.  Dinner was delightful, a short walk away, at Chris & Mady’s.   Sitting inside with open air overlooking the beach and watching families swim was a great view.  Dinner of lagastino (little lobster caught right off the restaurant), vegetables and a small salad was wonderful and with 3 beers and one Cubalibra (rum & Coke & lime - the national drink of DR) that Andy hated, cost a total of $56 US Dollars.  There is 16% TAX on everything and that was figured into the price. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
We spent the morning trying (yet again) to figure out how to get around here as neither of us speak a word of Spanish.  I’d ordered Spanish learning tapes and a computer program, but never got around to it.  Shame on me.  I still want to learn Spanish.  How does a retired person cruising on a boat never have time for some of the To Do list?!  I xeroxed some pages out of a book to take with us - Spanglish for Cruisers - out of Van Sant’s cruising guide in hopes maybe we could make ourselves understood during our explorations. Hopefully, maybe - smiling a lot & pointing will work....

Helicopter bringing El President's crew

Suddenly, helicopters were whirling overhead and we noticed a number of military personnel all around the marina.  Curious, we headed down the dock to see what was going on.  Would you believe - the PRESIDENT of the Dominica Republic was coming here to visit the hotel here and up the road!

The staff was all excited - a very big deal here.  We watched lots of military people wandering about plus a few men dressed up in black suits.

We hung out a while before giving up.   As all President’s do - he was on his OWN timetable. Then, we learned that the ‘carros publico’ and the ‘guaguas’ (buses that would take us to the towns of Puerto Plata, were not allowed down here where we were due to the arrival of the President.  A taxi one way was quoted at $35 US.  Rental car is $65 US a day.  The buses are $1 US one way.  We hiked up the long hill to the highway toward town where we were told the buses would be.

As we neared the intersection there, a taxi pulled over & we made a deal.  After some discussion, and a nearby taxi driver screaming at Jose as he wanted our fare and thought Jose cut him off - which he did - we hopped in Jose’s auto.  For $20 US, we got a tour of Puerto Plata, stopped for a wonderful lunch at Restaurant La Ponderosa del Mar, @ 12 de Julio No. 156.  Charming place, with a roof made of the bark off palm trees and the siding made of split palm wood; lots of fans to cool us and very tasty food.

Driver, Jose, & waitress at Restaurant.  Note walls & ceiling of palm

We asked Jose to join us, buying him lunch - which he did not expect.  He is a wealth of information and we very much enjoyed learning from him - about his family, about the culture on DR, economics, etc.  I was thrilled as stewed goat was on the menu - one of my favorites and goat is very hard to find in the USA.  Andy & Jose stuck with chicken in garlicky butter sauce that was also delish!

This is 2 lanes, but sometimes 4 rows of cars & scooters!

Driving around town quickly convinced both Andy & I that renting a car was NOT something we wanted to do.  Scooters & motorcycles zoom about like gnats in your face; red lights don’t seem to mean too much, cars dart around each other with only an inch to spare, sometimes with three in the road, two going one way and one another, all side by side in the two lane road.   More than once I just closed my eyes and hung on.

We walked around Fort San Felipe, the oldest European fort in the New World, with its moat & battlements out on the point of land overlooking the Ocean.  The usual vendors were hauking their wares, but were easily turned away.

Ft. San Felipe, Puerto Plata

 We spied a young girl madly trying to made a donkey do what she wanted.  The donkey was decked out in some kind of newspaper shirt & skirt with palm fronds around his head and some flowers.  Funny.  Dressed like that, I would have likewise been trying to buck her off and run away!

We went into The Canoa, a gift shop ‘factory’  that had a display of Amber (was it the actual Museum??) and how amber is found and the significance of it.  The mountains near here contain  the world’s richest deposits of amber.  I learned that amber is found in various colors, including green - I was only familiar with the  --  yes, amber colored amber.  Also to our surprise, amber is very lightweight in its rock formation and it floats in salt water and sinks in regular water - a way to test it!

Amber Stones that have been polished from the rock like amber (see rock in my hand in next photo)

Amber Museum A piece of raw amber in my hand.  Map shows where it is found.

Inside this building was also a display of the DR’s tobacco industry, complete with a man rolling cigars by hand.  He graciously gave us one.  I’m looking for a smoker to give it to.  I was told that the DR cigar is milder than the famed Cuban cigar.

Rolling a cigar in the Dominica Republic

Here in the DR there is a ‘rare and new’ semi-precious gem, discovered in 1974 thus far found only in the DR in the western & southern region.  The Smithisonian Institute says that Larimar is pectolite, with hardness of 5-6 on the MOHS scale.....I purchased a pair of earrings rimmed in silver for $33 US as the color of Larimar reminds me of the beautiful aqua seas all through the Caribbean.  Negotiation is the name of the game on this island.  Asking price was twice that!  I call it haggling.

Larimar factory

Polishing the Larimar stones to make jewelry

Finished Larimar jewelry & stones

Cash is king here, even US dollars are easily accepted everywhere.  We tried to use an ATM machine in order to obtain cash in pesos .  Even though we had selected ENGLISH as the language, the machine kept telling us it was costing $112 US dollars as the ‘fee’.  We knew that could not be right, but backed away anyway...we figured it had to be pesos!  Later, at another ATM, the fee was RD $112 - pesos!  Credit card transactions usually come with an additional 5% fee for the privilege of using the card.  To save money we keep going back to the ATM machine for more cash...

After shopping in a huge grocery store with bin after bin of fabulous fruits and vegetables and anything else one would need, we headed back to the boat with our bread, vegs & fruits, eggs & milk.  Hopping into the marina golf cart for transportation to the boat with our bags -- disaster.  My backpack with 30 fresh, unrefrigerated eggs went flying out, smashing egg side down into the road.  Ugh.  I was so excited to get unrefrigerated eggs as they will keep for nearly two months if they have never been refrigerated.  I salvaged 12 whole, unscathed eggs.  The rest that were just cracked are in a plastic bag of goo in the refrig.  Eggs of all kinds will be a featured item on my upcoming menus for the next week!  grin  What a MESS!


  1. It was cool the way the guy was rolling cigars by hand. The amber was cool the way it floated in saltwater, but not fresh water. When are you going to eat those unrefrigerated egg? For Mr. Andy: Is it weird seeing different types of women, like hispanic women? If it costs over $5000 for 100 gallons, how much to fill up the whole boat? Mrs. Sharon: Have you ever eaten gator or cow brain? Are you going to Australia? You should get a dog. (:
    Bye you both!

  2. Hi Billy! Great to hear from you. Yes, we have eaten most all the eggs. Boaters like unrefrigerated eggs because they keep a long time and boaters don't have much refrig space. The eggs keep about 2 months as long as they have NEVER been refrigerated. Mr. Andy likes to look at all women! The Hispanic women and men are good looking and very nice. Yes, I've eaten gator - it is chewy and will not eat cow brains...ugh. Have you eaten them?? We miss pets but it is hard to have a pet on the boat. Did you know that boaters teach their dogs to go potty on a piece of astroturf (fake grass) on the deck. They then hose it off when the dog is finished. The math is wrong. For 100 gallons at I think it was $5.65 a gallon I was talking about, we would pay $565. To fill the boat's 1,100 gallon tanks, it would cost of $6,215 at the $5.65 price. Too much $$!

  3. Have you ever filled the boat up with fuel? I've never eaten cow brains. Where are you going next?