Throwback Thursday – the Dominican Republic

A short one this week as I have been so busy at work and next week’s Throwback Thursday post will be quite long I think….! Every Thursday I share a little bit (in sequence) about a wonderful year I spent back in 2010/2011 sailing across the Atlantic (twice) and up through the Caribbean. All the posts are tagged together here if you want to read back! Last week we were in Puerto Rico….

The Dominican Republic felt like three separate islands … Punta Cana was paradise.

We left Puerto Rico early one morning under a beautiful sunrise but with absolutely no wind. We were heading to Mona Island. The island rises out of the sea like a huge shelf, very flat with cliffs dropping into the water, and it is very isolated as neither Puerto Rico nor the Dominican Republic can be seen. The anchorage was tiny but stunningly beautiful – an entrance through an extremely narrow passage between awash rocks, a shoreline of white sand fringed with trees and cliffs, and the clearest blue water imaginable.

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After anchoring, we went for a swim to cool off and check on the anchor. The water was the clearest we had ever seen it – it was rarely so clear that we could see the anchor  easily from the waters’ surface! But what was slightly scary was that we could see, extremely clearly, the anchor dragging. The chain would become taut, the anchor would move in the sand, and then we would look up to see the boat jerk backwards. We managed to get mum’s attention, starting to be a bit panicky as the rocks loomed close behind us, and she turned the engine on. Jilli and I swam to shore to undo the rope from the shore and managed to climb back into the boat just as mum began to motor forward. We relaid in a different spot and had a nervous night.

The next morning there was still no wind  so we just motored all the way to the Dominican Republic. We moored up in the loveliest of places – Punta Cana marina, part of a huge hotel complex (so huge that it took us 15 minutes one day to drive out of the hotel!) – we were able to use the pools, beach, bars and restaurants all for a marina fee of $27! (about £18). And we had the fastest immigration time ever – four immigration officers swarmed on our boat, all very smartly dressed and extremely attractive  – two men and two women.

They spoke not a word of English and were extremely efficient, passing our passports around, filling in forms, chatting away in Spanish and giggling constantly. When they wanted my attention, they would say “Lady!” and then fire off a question in Spanish. On finding out that mum was the captain – “solo capitana? Todo el tiempo?” (All the time?) they were very impressed and the older woman came forward to energentically shake mum’s hand – “viven las mujeres!” she exclaimed, and they all burst into giggles. It was all over in fifteen minutes (nothing like the six hours we’d read about) and we weren’t aware of being bribed (another thing we’d been warned about). Although I think I may have heard them discussing whether or not to bribe us, before the older man turned to me and asked “habla espanol?”

Si, un pocito.” I smiled and they all giggled again and changed the subject.

We spent a few glorious days in boat chores, reading by the pool, playing scrabble and drinking homemade cocktails in the evening. Funny looking back, we weren’t doing anything that different to the rhythm of our lives when in the BVIs, but while in the BVIs I was homesick, here I couldn’t quite believe how wonderful my life was.

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The marina was so beautiful, especially due to our position, with no boats between us and the sea. We were protected by a low, stony breakwater, from which chefs from the hotel restaurant fish every evening. It just felt very open, with no sense whatsoever of being hemmed into a marina, despite also being calm and protected. One afternoon we watched a guy fishing with a weighted net – he looked for the fish then threw the net over it. In his first catch he caught two, within thirty seconds of walking over to the rocks. He gave them to a security man standing nearby as he went to catch another one. The security man was fully dressed in khaki trousers and an official jacket, slightly overweight, and one of the fish kept making a bid for freedom, leaping out of the bag and then proving extremely slippery to pick up. The poor security man spent about ages stumbling over the rocks trying to pick it up again while we tried to hide our giggles.

We made friends with the guys who worked on the hotel’s boat – it took tourists out on fishing trips and Carlos was the skipper. They would arrive at the boat early in the morning for fishing trips, but if they didn’t have any, would spend the time cleaning and generally just enjoying themselves. On one day in particular they had a bit of a party, playing loud Spanish guitar music and drinking rum out of a bottle – all very attractive, friendly and fun to be around. One day they caught a gigantic marlin so obviously we had to get our picture taken with it (the guy in the pic is my sister’s ex-boyfriend who was visiting us).

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One afternoon we went for a wander around the huge nature reserve that forms part of Punta Cana’s lands. We only did a short trail that encompassed several lagoons, some that you could swim in. The water was incredibly clear and shaded from the sun, tiny fresh-water turtles lazed around as did several fish. We went swimming in two of the lagoons, all deserted. Diving down to rocks and logs on the floor, and under over-hanging cliffs, I felt like I was in Lara Croft.

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After a wonderful few days, we left and sailed towards Samana Bay.

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