Dominican Republic 2017

February 14, 2017

We awoke early as we had made arrangements to borrow the marina pick-up truck for a last minute run to the ATM. We will need physical cash to pay for our visit to Cuba as American ATM cards, credit cards and the like, are not usable there because of the ongoing embargo. Our bank limits the amount of cash that we can withdraw on a daily basis, thus we had to wait until after midnight, California time to make the final pass. A final run to the bakery for breakfast pastries and we were done. We slowly backed Doodlebug off the dock and tied up at the fuel dock to top up with diesel and fuel for the dinghy. At 0848 hours we dropped our lines and headed west, skirting the southern edge of the “Las Coronas” shoals. Two hours later, we passed over the shallow bank north of Bajo Gallardo where our depth sounder showed 28 feet of water and we could clearly see the sea bed below. We had perhaps one eighth cloud cover, a sunny day with light winds from the east and 1 to 2 foot of wave action. Great conditions for the Mona Passage!

By noon we had perhaps three eighths cloud cover and could see scattered rain pods in the distance. The seas had risen to the 2 to 4 foot range with a swell off the starboard beam but we could now see a long, flat topped island, protected by vertical sea-cliffs and directly ahead.

At 1306 hours we were orbited by a orange painted helicopter that then continued to overfly Mona Island and ahead, on the south side of the island, was a large white vessel with the familiar, diagonal red bow stripe of the US Coast Guard. Mona Island has been a favorite dropping off point for illegal aliens / refugees, or whatever is this morning’s PC term. I had wondered if this was still the case since outgoing President Obama had rescinded the “wet foot, dry foot” immigration policy of the United States, the week before he left office. Just behind the Coast Guard cutter was a heavy rain cloud and another over the island itself as we passed its southern point, Punta Caigo. We changed course to follow the coast around towards Punta Arenas on the western shore and the Coast Guard Cutter reversed course to parallel us, still a mile or so away. It then fired a large white flare into the air. If the flare had been red, I would have radioed and asked if they needed assistance but white could mean anything and thus we ignored it. We were automatically transmitting our position and vessel details on our AIS system and even the Coast Guard gets a couple of radio receivers.

We had been passing by the amazing cliffs of Mona Island. They were near vertical but with the bases undercut by the sea. The sea bed all around is coral and three miles off the island, the bed plunges to 2,000 feet deep. Thirty miles north of Mona Island the entrance to the passage drops from around 100 feet deep into the abyss of the Atlantic Ocean at 16,000 feet deep. Mona must therefore have been formed by continental shift, yet we don’t see vulcanism, in that the cliffs do not have the black, columnar look of cooled basalt. We have no internet here so I can’t look it up (yet!).

At around 1420 hours we turned in towards the shore as we had been told that there were range markers to guide us into a small bay. We had also been told that the entrance gap in the reef was extremely narrow, perhaps two boat widths. They were not kidding! We found the range markers and eased in carefully since they seemed to be guiding us directly over a jagged reef. When we were right on top of the reef, we saw that there was indeed a gap and its width had been correctly described. We drifted in at just over two knots, occasionally using reverse thrust on the engines to maneuver. The sky was helpfully overcast and it began to pour with rain just as we grabbed a mooring ball. Fortunately Annette had taken the precaution to wear her rain jacket as the rain bucketed down and without let up for the next three hours.

We moored at 1430 hours at 18 05.387 N 067 56.313 W in 6 feet of water, half a boat length away from a decaying concrete dock. Our arrival had been made even more exciting by the presence of a couple in a kayak, plus multiple swimmers, all helpfully and directly in our path. Once we were tied up and looked around, they had disappeared without trace, like a bad dream.

Annette fixed a fabulous Valentine’s Day lunch / supper of bacon wrapped, BBQ’d chicken, baked potato, tomato / olive salad, the repast wrapped up with cherry cobbler and when it finally stopped raining, we donned our swim gear and swam ashore. There were a couple of turtles that were swimming up to our stern and when I launched myself into the water, they swam over to take a look at this curious creature. The anchorage itself is amazing. It is small, with just five closely space mooring balls inside the reef and behind the broken dock are some faded park service signs, warning the reader of dire penalties if they introduce alien pathogens to the island’s flora and fauna. To the south of the dock, near hidden amongst the trees, were a series of buildings and we saw a couple of uniformed men emerge in late afternoon and stare at us with binoculars. They did not approach us and because it was already late, we treated them as white flares. Since we did not appear to be discharging dozens of brown bodies onto their beach, we suppose were determined to be, “mostly harmless” and thereafter ignored. If it hadn’t been raining earlier we would have wandered over to say “hello” but the sun was now setting to the west amongst the towering rain clouds. There was plenty of chicken left and we would have shared.

February 15, 2017

Yesterday we had made it into the mooring field past the jagged rocks but could we reverse the process this morning? There was zero water visibility, with the sun not even above the horizon at 0655 hours when we dropped our mooring. We had waited until the unlit range markers were at least visible and removed the sunscreen from behind the steering position. There was almost no wind and we carefully maneuvered Doodlebug parallel to the beach until the range markers were in line, turned to put them directly over the stern and then eased out really slowly, as though we were approaching a dock. The rising sun was lighting the sky behind us in streaks of red but was still hidden behind the limestone cliffs of Mona, when the depth sounder began to indicate that we were through the reef gap and in open water. We headed out to the west with continuing light winds and waves in the 2 to 3 foot range behind the starboard beam.

By 0830 hours the waves had built to the 3 to 4 foot range, four eighths cloud and there was a long line of rain cells a few miles off to our south, as though we were just on the northern edge of a weather system. At 0900 hours the chartplotter crashed and rebooted itself. This was a new event. I restarted the navigation, turned the radar back on and waited. The plotter continued to operate normally. We have an iPad with navigation software and internal GPS for backup but we don’t need any surprises on “final approach”.

Two liquid’s carriers and a container freighter passed us close by. The Mona Passage seems to be a popular route for commercial shipping. By now we could see the east coast of the Dominican Republic near Punta Espada and the binoculars showed flat land and sea cliffs, similar to the limestone mass of Mona Island. By 1100 hours we were off Punta Cana at the east end of Isla Saona and changed course to the northwest to the Marina Casa de Campo.

We had been instructed to contact the marina on VHF channel 68 and then contact the Dominican Navy on channel 16 for clearance permission. There was no response from the marina and I “may” have been talking to the Dominican Navy on Ch 16, who kept asking for the name of the vessel. After the fourth attempt to pass on the vessel name and the second attempt to spell “Doodlebug” using the International phonetic alphabet (Delta, Oscar, Oscar, Delta, Lima, Echo etc, etc.) they went completely silent. When we were a mile off the marina entrance, the marina responded that they would contact the authorities and we should wait at the “buoys” for a dinghy to guide us. There were buoys everywhere, red, green, white, whatever. We entered the marina, turned into the wind and drifted in the calm waters, ignoring the yelling in Spanish from the nearby dock. The long awaited dinghy did arrive, the lads in the dinghy changed minds three times as to our dock location but eventually waved at us to follow them, which we did. They wanted us to back up to a long and high concrete pier. OK, not ideal but there was nothing to hit except the pier and we backed in. Annette worked feverishly with the dinghy guys to attach bow lines to hold us off the dock and I tried to hold us straight until we could get some stern lines on. The wind was blowing from the port beam and a yell from the dock indicated I should cease to use the engines. A second dinghy pushed us back into position and Annette threw stern lines (she is so tough!) and we were tied up at 1430 hours about nine feet away from the dock. What now? “Do you have a passarelle? I was asked. This is a long boarding ramp. “No, why the hell would I carry one of those?” Stalemate. Finally the marina folks left to “find a passarelle”, leaving a couple of guys behind who were looking for work, such as cleaning the boat. We agreed with “Gilbert” that he would clean the topsides for $100. After fifteen minutes of waiting, he left, to return shortly in a golf cart bearing a passarelle, which barely bridged the gap between boat and dock and was in the process of disintegrating.

Thirty minutes later, two more golf carts showed up, bulging with officials. They considered the disintegrating passarelle, plunging at a steep angle from the dock to our stern, somewhat dubiously. “You can be the first to try it”, I invited cheerfully. They did all arrive on board Doodlebug without falling into the sea, all wearing boot covers to protect our decks (!!) and I was surrounded by four or so officials, pushing forms at me (all in Spanish) and demanding my “firma”. I signed everything they had. When our passports had been returned, there was a crisp $50 bill between the pages. Whoa! I assumed that I had somehow managed to get this mixed up with the passports and hadn’t noticed. Now the Immigration lady said that it was hers and it had been a mistake. I said that I thought it had been a present for me, a statement which seemed to amuse everyone. Finally they all left. We are legally here in the Dominican Republic!

February 16, 2017

Yesterday afternoon we had checked in with the marina office and told them their passarelle sucked. We had then exchanged the wooden one that was discharging shards of timber for a solid alloy version that was slick like glass if it got wet. Yesterday we had also learned that the reason the lads had yelled at me to desist from using the engines to straighten up Doodlebug against the cross wind while docking, is that they had managed to get a marina line around our prop. The assistant Harbor Master arrived early this morning with a diver in tow to remove the offending line. We asked the diver how much he would charge to clean our hull and props of marine growth. He described how badly fouled the hull was (it has been in the water since mid-November – just three months!) began by asking $400 and then dropped the price to $300. We considered this but decided it was a little too rich, particularly since we carry our own dive system aboard. In fact, the reason I have been reluctant to get in the water myself is that the sports fishing boats around have been filleting their fish and dumping a bloody slurry into the water, right off the dock next to us. In 2009, we had watched a Bull shark in the Bahamas, feeding from just below such an operation.

An hour or so later, “Gilbert” the “boat boy” who last night had cleaned Doodlebug like a mad-man until well after dark, asked if we had any work for him and his buddy. He said that they had nothing to do that day and offered to clean the hull and props for $200. We agreed and told him to be careful.

February 17, 2017

The marina ATM machine had puked up our card thus our first quest for the day was to find a working machine. We drove our rental car into the town of La Romana, population around 130,000. We had rented a cellular “hot spot” from the car company and Google Maps gave us confident directions on how to find the Scotia Bank. Driving in other countries is always exciting, as you don’t really know the rules. The roads within the 7,000 acre (11 square miles) complex had broad white stripes across them at intersections. Similarly they were divided by a solid yellow line. In many counties these markings mean “stop” and “don’t pass” respectively. We noticed that they were uniformly ignored by the other drivers and still don’t know what their significance is. As we approached town we saw many traffic lights that were flashing combinations of amber and red as well as amber and green. We believe these to be warnings. We stopped for the “solid” red lights although these were routinely ignored by the motorcycle and scooter drivers, who also ignored the one way street system. We never did work out the rules for “right of way” at the mostly unmarked intersections in the downtown area, we just used the “Istanbul” system of boring into the traffic until someone blinked and let us pass.

Overall the traffic flow was reasonably good and the driving not too wild. We parked at the Bank and tried their lobby ATM – still no luck, before walking across the street to a small shopping mall. We were impressed that everywhere were heavily armed guards. Even the Bank parking lot attendant carried a 12 gauge, pump action shotgun.

Fortunately we still carried US dollars so we abandoned the ATM game and headed for the village of Altos de Chavon, a replica of a 16th. century village, high on the banks of the Chavon river. This is inside the 7,000 acre Casa de Campo property and our immediate problem was getting past the front gate. Unlike Puerto Rico, few Dominican Republicans speak English, thus there was ample opportunity for misunderstandings. Eventually we convinced them that we had a boat at their marina and no, we weren’t going to pay a $25 daily entrance fee. The Altos de Chavon village was fun, with restaurants, a theatre and multiple gift shops. They also had the best museum we have seen of the Pre-Columbian Taino culture.

The Casa de Campo complex seems a little strange to us. The security is everywhere evident and we drove between multi-million dollar “second” homes with sweeping driveways, exquisitely manicured and landscaped yards, past the golf shooting range, the skeet range and the polo fields, then back to the marina where even more security checkpoints lay. We met a couple who were staying here and who had described their staffing of cook, gardeners and maids. These Eloi’s could have been describing Victorian England. The downtown areas showed us an entirely different Dominican Republic but I suppose that this is also true to a lesser extent when you compare the downtown ghettos to the suburbs of large city America.

That evening I called our bank using Skype and confirmed that they had put a “temporary” hold on our ATM cards. We should have filed “travel plans”, we were told. When the agent attempted to do this for us, she was surprised to find that this had already been done and our “plans” already included the Dominican Republic. Who’da thunk?

February 18, 2017

We again left the coddled womb of the Casa de Campo resort complex and headed west, to visit the World Amber Museum in Santo Domingo. Greater Santo Domingo has a population of around 3 million, making it the largest city in the Caribbean. We first travelled north from the marina to pick up “Highway 3”, a major east-west, divided highway with a smooth, pot-hole free surface and well designed, modern on and off ramps, etc. Just as we began to wonder if this was to be a toll road, we arrived at the first pay booth. Would this system have an express lane for electronic payment and if so, does this rental car have a transponder, we wondered? Yes to the first question. We rolled into the cash pay lane and attempted to ask the toll booth attendant, in our broken Spanish, if our rental car had a transponder. The security guy bearing a military style, semi-automatic rifle wandered over. “You pay now!”, he growled. Annette and I both burst out laughing. He began to smile. They had understood absolutely nothing of our elaborate query! We paid the toll of $2 and headed west while Annette called the rental company. Her conversation with the representative was only marginally better but the word was, “pay cash”.

The four lane toll road had light traffic and was in much better condition than anything we had experienced in Puerto Rico. During the two hour drive, we passed lots of motorcycles and motor-scooters driving in what we would consider the “crash” lane. Sometimes these would be counter flow but most these were wisely hugging the shoulder. The speed limit was posted at 60 mph (100 kph) although a significant number of vehicles passed at well over 100 mph. weaving between cars, passing between and around the sane traffic. The internet reports that the Dominican Republic boasts the highest mortality rate by traffic accident in the entire Western Hemisphere and we can well believe it. The only country where we have experienced a higher concentration of inept drivers would be Egypt. The freeway passed through several urban areas where there were private driveways exiting directly into the roadway and where there were also pedestrians trying to cross six lanes of high speed traffic. Downtown Santo Domingo was naturally crowded and we were grateful we were making this expedition on a Saturday rather than a work day.

The amber museum was well laid out and after viewing the exhibits, I chatted with the owner and founder, Jorge Caridad while Annette browsed the various articles for sale. We wandered down to the Plaza de Espana on the banks of the Rio Ozama for an excellent lunch before braving the return trip to Casa de Campo. This is a fascinating town and one that we could spend more time exploring.

On our return journey, it was impossible to be unaware of the cane fields we were transiting, the stacks of the industrial plant nearby, belching black smoke was indubitably a cane processing operation and we passed huge trucks bearing towering stacks of the cut cane, the roadside littered with pieces that had fallen off the various loads. In general the roadsides were almost trash free, presumably a benefit of the multiple work crews we passed. They couldn’t all have been DWI offenders.

We could see the coast to the right of the freeway and noted that it was undercut limestone cliffs. The town of Boca Chica is where the Santo Domingo “chicas” go to show off their bikinis and we made a detour to visit the “Playa” to collect a beach sample, whilst a policeman watched us warily from outside his nearby police station. Annette waved gaily at him as we walked by and just before her sand sample bag burst, dumping the contents at his feet. A second plastic bag was produced, the precious sand scooped up and we escaped before he could call for reinforcements.

February 19, 2017

Sunday in the Dominican Republic and it was raining. We managed to waddle over to the supermarket to buy a few groceries for a BBQ lunch but overall this was a laze around day.

February 20, 2017

A slow day. We had planned to take a tour of the local cigar company, a huge plant on the outskirts of La Romana and a major local employer. These tours are only available on Tuesdays and I had attempted to make an internet reservation without receiving the promised confirmation “within 24 hours”. A couple of phone calls later, I had still failed to contact an English speaking representative of the cigar tour operation. Grudgingly we dragged our weary bones to the marina concierge to see if they could make or confirm the reservation. The Tuesday tour was “all filled up”, the response.

We drove back into the town of La Romana and visited a couple of giant supermarkets. The traffic circulation was diabolical but if you made it to the parking garage entrance tunnel, you entered a different world. A multi-story car park, well lit with plenty of parking spaces, plus ramps and the like to enable the shopper to push a loaded grocery cart right up to the trunk. Pretty civilized really, you just needed to own a car.

February 21, 2017

Another slow day since our planned cigar tour hadn’t panned out. When we went to apply for exit documents we were told to return tomorrow. About the only successful task we managed to accomplish was to return the intact rental car.

February 22, 2017

By 0900 hours we had paid our bills, received our departure document or “despacho” and were ready to head out. When I called on the radio for assistance on dropping our bow lines, we were told that the marina crew were busy helping a “super yacht” to dock. No helicopter on deck, therefore not a “super yacht” in our book but these guys obviously hold to a lower standard. Forty minutes later a pair of dinghies zipped over to us and untied our bow lines that were knotted to some unseen undersea anchors. By 0940 hours, we were free from the dock and headed over to Isla Catalina, anchoring off Punta Perez at 1045 hours, at 18 21.4 N 069 01.4 W in a fine patch of white sand. We had obviously judged the best anchoring spot because an hour or so later, we were surrounded by charter boats, dropping off their hordes of snorkelers for their twenty minute swim.

I too donned snorkel gear in order to inspect our hull in a shark free environment. I also dove to the sea bed to gather sand for my bride, who had meanwhile kayaked to the beach on a similar mission. A Swiss flagged cruising boat with 7 people on board anchored very close to us and Annette was outraged that several of the “old people” on board were sunbathing topless and within a stone’s throw. I was similarly outraged that the pair of young, lithe, blond goddesses they had aboard were not.

February 23, 2017

At 0305 hours we raised anchor and set sail for Las Salinas using radar, chartplotter and flashlights to miss the Swiss vessel who were floating just above our buried hook. As we eased out of the confines of the anchorage, we narrowly missed a mooring ball that did not show on radar but which Annette spotted with the flashlight. We gradually increased speed and within minutes had to again go to reverse engines, changing course to avoid an unlit fishing skiff that showed up on radar directly in our path. Finally we were in deeper water and the threat of unlit skiffs diminished. The moon had not yet risen and Annette counted shooting stars while the Southern Cross hung well above the horizon to port and the Big Dipper pointed the way to Polaris on the starboard side.

Annette was on watch when we hit an unlit fishing buoy with the starboard hull. These are impossible to see in darkness and starlight just enables you to see what you are about to hit, without providing the opportunity to take avoiding action. We were beginning to long for dawn, which wasn’t showing up until near 0700 hours. The radar now showed a large and heavy downpour ahead of us plus an AIS target, soon to be identified as a 105 foot power yacht on a reciprocal course and heading for the BVI’s. We looked as though we would all arrive at the same spot in the ocean at the same time and indeed we did. At 0730 hours, the chartplotter crashed and rebooted, the second time it has done this. We hope that this behavior does not become a habit.

Dawn showed us the coast of the Dominican Republic and after we passed by the capital of Santo Domingo, we began to see ranges of mountains behind the coastal plain. The shallow waters off Punta Palenque attracted fishermen and again we began seeing fishing floats ahead of us in the water, some single floats and some in a sort of drift line. We have always wondered how these “work” and assume some kind of anchored fish “trap”, based solely on the fact that we have seen these being loaded onto boats at the various ports and marinas.

At 1422 hours we dropped anchor in the Bahia de las Calderas off the village of Las Salinas at 18 12.9 N 070 32.7 W. Our anchorage lay close by a somewhat run down looking marina attached to a hotel. Just about all of the marina slips contained yachts but the streamers of torn canvas and absence of deck hardware spoke of owners long departed.

We began to prepare to launch our dinghy when a skiff appeared off our stern bearing multiple men in uniform. They asked where we had come from and after we handed them our “despacho”, they departed, telling us to come and see them at their office when we decide to leave. That seemed simple enough but I felt lost without my piece of paper with an official stamp on it.

February 24, 2017

This morning we caught the bus to the nearby town of Bani, the nearest source of ATM’s and a post office. “La oficina postal” does not seem to be heavily used in the Dominican Republic because we have usually found such to be empty of customers and further, nobody seems to know where they are located. As we waited on a bench outside the hotel, the bus pulled up on the opposite side of the road and the driver jerked his head to indicate we should board. This we did, even though he was traveling in the opposite to our desired direction but we knew the road had nowhere to go. The bus toured the village of Las Salinas before coming to a halt and the fare collector (conductor) informing us there would be a wait of “quince minutes”. Thirty minutes later we set off in the direction of Bani but by now the bus was nearly full as we picked people up and dropped others off, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The bus also seemed to operate as a delivery service for sandwiches, bags of groceries and the like. It would stop outside a small roadside store and the goods would be handed to the conductor who would also disappear for minutes while he delivered one of the several packages traveling at his feet. The bus was a Toyota Coaster and we travelled down memory lane since this was the same type of vehicle we had owned and driven across Australia. I had to force myself to stop coveting the upholstery buttons and paneling clips as we didn’t need them any longer.

When we arrived in Bani, we walked through the busy downtown for five or six blocks until we found the seeming deserted edifice that was the post office. We wandered the empty rooms calling out, “hello” until we found a girl in an office who indicated that we should return to near the entrance, which then separated us from her by a window and a counter! This made it official and after payment of about $4, for which we have not a clue as to the purpose, she hand franked Annette’s postcards and we were dismissed.

We stopped at a restaurant for a lunch of some unknown fish. Bad idea! We ate the tostones and drank the beer so it wasn’t a total loss. Then by a sheer quirk of fate, we passed a Scotia Bank and were able to use the ATM. Both goals achieved we then somehow caught the bus for the return journey to Salinas. A seemingly mundane couple of errands that still occupied us for four or more hours.

The afternoon was waning and this morning’s cast of the weather forecast entrails predicted heavy weather for Monday onwards, as competing cold fronts and gales battled for dominance. Saturday and Sunday alone predicted favorable conditions for our journey west. Our plan had been to spend two or three days here, then wander some 30 miles or so to the town of Barahona to check out of the country, before illegally stopping at Isla Beata, a sheltered anchorage about 50 miles further on. We could then leave Isla Beata in the wee hours of the morning for a run to Jamaica. Today’s forecast, if accurate, indicated that we should split early tomorrow and “straight shot” the 355 miles to our destination or Port Antonio, Jamaica. If we were fortunate, we would beat the onset of strong winds and big waves by an hour or two.

We drove our dinghy over to obtain departure documents to a “port” consisting of a floating dock, several rusting barges and some tugboats. The workmen who were busy welding or whatever, were puzzled by our approach but one individual indicated that he knew where the immigration office lay. We tied off to a rusty barge, crossed its debris littered deck and jumped ashore, stepping over the power cables and jetsam of a commercial boatyard. The immigration office was locked. A minute or so later, an officer in uniform showed up and said the immigration guy had gone home, come back tomorrow. This wasn’t going to work! We hung in, explained that we needed to sail by 0700 hours because of “weather” and negotiated until the soldier said he remembered our arrival. He insisted that he would arrive on our boat by 0700 hours, with the immigration guy in tow and we could leave by 0800 hours. OK then (yeah, maybe!).

We parked our boat documents back aboard, ran our dinghy back to land and then walked perhaps a mile to the entrance to the National Park, Monumento Natural Dunas de las Calderas, alleged to be the only sand dunes in the Caribbean. The park entrance booth was empty but a young girl ran across the road from the nearby hotel and gravely and laboriously wrote out a receipt for the fee of $4. The park was scheduled to close within the next twenty minutes. Finally we were free to pass within the gates and we walked over several dunes until we could see the sea and beaches on the Caribbean side of the bounding peninsula. Annette took a sample of “dune” sand and we headed back to the main gate which had been padlocked in our absence. We rattled it and a man crossed the street from the hotel to allow our exit. Impressive security but whatever there might be to steal, had already been stolen (about four ounces of sand) and was residing in Annette’s handbag.

The final quest for the day and we walked to the salt mines of Las Salitas, or rather the salt evaporation ponds. When we had taken the bus excursion this morning, enroute to its terminus, we saw a front-end loader scraping up the top layer of salt from one of the dried ponds. Evening was now approaching fast and the workmen were loading their product into hoppers, a view straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. The loaded hoppers were pushed along a narrow gauge rail track and then a steel cable was attached to pull the cars, in pairs, up a ramp. At the crest of the ramp, the cars were “caught” by three men who then manhandled them along a perpendicular track before manually dumping the hoppers to a pile of salt product near the road below. The salt cars ran on rails, all heavily corroded by the salt and the wooden ramp and trestle certainly looked as though they had seen better days, perhaps as a film location for a Zorro movie. As we watched a load of two hoppers being cabled up the ramp, the lead car derailed, toppling precariously. The three men strained to lever it back onto the tracks, whilst a small boy played unconcernedly directly below. In the event, they were successful and the child lived. A hard existence.

Annette asked the workmen for a sample of the salt which they cheerfully agreed to. Loaded down with sand and salt, we prepared Doodlebug for her dawn departure.

February 25, 2017

0700 hours and we were ready. The dinghy had been raised on the davits and lashed down, the sun shades rolled, folded and stowed or whatever was appropriate. All movable objects, stowed, navigation loaded into the chartplotter, anti-nausea pills swallowed, sandwiches made, bagged and stowed. Then we waited. At 0810 hours I called the “Marina de Guerra de Las Salinas” on the VHF radio. No response. Twenty minutes later and after multiple hails, I called the hotel across from the sand dunes and chatted awhile with the owner. I then waited whilst he searched “social media” for the phone number of the hotel we are anchored off. Next I called the owner of our hotel. No, he didn’t know how to contact the Dominican Navy, or the Immigration people. I would have to go back to the “port”. Turning the air blue with admonishments, we relaunched our dinghy, grabbed the boat documents plus rain jackets and tore down to the boat yard at the other end of the bay. We again tied up our dinghy between huge tugs and barges and again determined that the immigration office was still locked. The adjacent office was not however and the occupant within made a phone call and told us to wait five minutes. Sure enough five minutes later, a scrawny individual arrived who knew nothing about out departure plans. He could stamp our passports, yes but how do we get the departure documents for the boat? Back to the English speaker, office neighbor to the Immigration office and back on the phone he went. This time he announced that the port captain was waiting for us at the hotel next to DoodleBug. The Immigration guy demanded our passports. I handed them over. He laboriously stamped them with an exit stamp and demanded $20. I handed him a 1,000 peso bill. He smiled, we were done; we jumped in the dinghy and screamed back over to the hotel. Here there were four individuals in uniform, standing around an abandoned bar at the dock end of the marina. They filled out lots of forms, agonized over the registered depth of Doodlebug, debated fiercely over the net tonnage, all of which are clearly listed on the US registration document. Eventually everyone was satisfied and I had signed perhaps another half dozen documents that I had made no attempt to read. They needed $60 now, presumably for overtime pay. I handed over 3,000 pesos and smiles and handshakes broke out. Vowing eternal brotherhood and friendship, we jumped back in the dinghy and tore back to Doodlebug, instantly raising the dinghy on the davits and lashing it down. The anchor bridle resisted being detached from the chain but this too was overcome, the engines fired up and at 0931 hours, only 91 minutes later than planned, our anchor lifted from the seabed and we set sail for Port Antonio, Jamaica, 355 nautical miles away.

The sky was cloud covered with just occasional glimpses of blue and active rain cells all around. We enjoyed the forecast light winds and the seas were in the two to three foot range as we headed southwest towards Cape Beata. I had wanted to arrive at our waypoint at the entrance to Canal de la Beata in daylight. The canal separates Isla Beata from the cape of the same name and is about 3 1/2 miles wide. As you approach, the water depth goes from 2500 feet to 16 feet in about a half mile. I expected the hazards of fish traps and unlit fishing skiffs but when we arrived at 1700 hours, we found empty seas that had perhaps a 1 foot wave action. Empty lands lay to the north and south of us with little evidence of human presence. A single ketch lay at anchor on the northwest tip of Isla Beata where we had originally wanted to stop for the night. An hour later we were back in deep water, night was falling and Jamaica lay directly 285 miles to the west as we motored on.