Thirty three years ago we reluctantly sailed past the Dominican Republic. We wanted to explore this beautiful and mountainous country. However, it was too late in the spring season. Hurricane season was approaching. This time around, we were determined to pay Hispaniola a visit, and see what treasures it had to offer. Our passage from Puerto Rico took us across the Mona Passage. Check out this video of our very pleasant sail and another clip of us entering Samana harbor. We completed the 141 mile downwind sail in 25 hours arriving at 9:00 AM on February 21.
The officials were very welcoming. Before long, a local entrepreneur, Luis came alongside Lone Star in a long boat. Luis is an agent and interpreter that many visiting cruisers hire. He brought a navy officer to inspect the boat. Then took us on a walk around town, to the various customs and immigration offices. We used his services again to have a new custom cover for our jib sewn. The Spanish language that is used here sounds different and English is not as prevalent as in Puerto Rico. We soon became adept at using Google Translate to ask questions and gain answers.
One day we decided to hike to the farmers market. We brought our trolley as it was a mile hike. It was a challenging walk up busy streets and past three rotaries or round-abouts. Every street crossing involved crossing an open drainage ditch. Now we know why Luis recommended using a TukTuk. Later we discovered the produce in the flatbed trucks on the waterfront street were often better quality than at the market.
Warning: Thar’ be technical boaters lingo ahead, Ye’ be warned, 😁. The anchorage across from the town of Samana is much deeper than our chart suggests, i.e. around 25-35 feet. Adding in our height above the water and the desired scope of 6:1, we needed to deploy over 160 feet of anchor rode. We do not like to anchor in water that deep as we currently only carry 90 feet of chain. This means that we had to let out ALL of our chain, and dip into the reserve rope attached to the chain for such occasions. All added together, we have 240 ft of available anchor rode. We prefer to use as little as possible, as it is a slow and dirty job to haul it all back in and flake it into the bow locker. In addition, the boat swings in a much wider circle. Side note: boy are we glad we have an electric anchor windlass now! We plan to replace the chain this summer and will have a much longer length in the near future.
We spent many an afternoon or evening taking our dinghy to the nearby beach on Santa Barbara Island and walking across the bridge or up and down the many stairs on the island trails.
There were many stairs on the hilly island. This was a good workout!
There were also several flights of stairs to get to these gorgeous overlooks at either end of the walking bridge.
One day we decided to move anchorages to the outer harbor so that we could desalinate water and fill our tank. This is much better for the watermaker if you do it in deep clear water, where there isn’t as much sediment to clog up the filters. We motored to Lovantado Island and stayed for the afternoon. There were plenty of tourists on the beaches and fishermen in the sea.
Small cruise ships come to visit Samana. Although the harbor is too small for them, they anchor near Lavantado island and utilize small excursion boats to bring passengers ashore. We saw a couple ships make port during our stay. There are many local boats that are used to bring tourists to see the whales in the winter season or to the National park just to the south. Of course there are also many popular tourist destinations on land as well. Like waterfalls, zip lines, tropical rainforests, shopping, etc.
After two weeks visiting this fine port, we got the wandering itch again. A quick painless check out with the authorities and we were sailing on toward Luperon.
We sailed 138 miles in 24 hours. The first 7 hours we motor-sailed into head winds. Then it was smooth downwind sailing for the rest of the trip. Luperon is a completely enclosed harbor, protected on all sides by hills, with only a narrow, twisting entrance. Due to this security, many cruisers stop here to provision, wait for weather, or to stay for the hurricane season. It is surrounded by mangroves and the nearby mountains often disrupt those big storms.
We were very happy to see Stephen and Janet on Little Sister again. We last spent time with them in Georgetown, Bahamas two years ago. The same time frame for our rendezvous here with Emily and Clark on Temptress. The latter have a YouTube channel to help new cruisers prepare and to help pay there way in the lifestyle. Check out #emilyandclarksadventure on YouTube. Stephen hired a taxi driver to take the four of us (Stephen & Janet, Tom & Anita) on a tour of nearby Puerto Plata. Our first stop was a cable car that smoothly lifts its passengers to Isabela de Torres mountain just south of the city. Here’s a clip of us passing a cable car as we ascended.
Our next stop was a rum factory. My, they had a lot of rum to sell and darn we still have a lot on board! The tour was a winding path through a very dark warehouse. We had no idea we’d be sampling nine different varieties of rum. No, we do not remember the names of all nine. I’m very sure we should not have done this right before lunch!
Our lunch stop had gorgeous scenery! I believe I have pictures of this same island with a statue on it from a couple other visits to the DR. We flew in for a long weekend all-inclusive resort stay in September 2016 and took a cruise ship that stopped in Puerto Plata in December 2017.
Our next stop was for ice cream and a gander at Central Park and its surroundings. Then we had a tour of a chocolate factory. The free samples of brownies and hot chocolate had the inexorable effect of us each purchasing various chocolate treats to bring home. Then it was on to a cigar factory.
They also had a smoking lounge in this factory. However, none of us are smokers. That was the last stop on our tour apart from a quick stop in Luperon to pick up some local beer: Presidente makes a pretty good stout called Bohemia. Does anyone not understand why we nicknamed this our Vice tour?
Stephen introduced us to a local man who was earning his living working on boats. We gladly hired Manuel for a week to sand and paint our shower and the inner cockpit. A few weeks later, he and a friend scrubbed the bottom of our boat. Tom had last scrubbed it in Puerto Rico. There are so many nutrients in the enclosed mangrove waters of Luperon weeds grow very fast! We make it a habit to scrub just before a passage to ensure our best speed through the water.
UJAM’n sailed in to Luperon early one morning. We went ashore together to walk around town, get them a SIM card, and have lunch.
We watched one of our favorite sailing movies, ‘Riddle of the Sands’ and had popcorn of course!
Anita decided to visit a Swedish trained chiropractor that several cruisers recommended. Hans was a TukTuk ride out of town. He uses massage and gentle adjustments. Really helped her knees, lower back, and mid-back. Best chiropractic experience ever! She’s tried maybe 30? The Dominican Republic as a whole is well known for medical tourism. Many folks fly from all over the world into the larger cities to have normally expensive procedures done here. We recommend you look into it. This is a very friendly and inexpensive place.
We booked another four person taxi tour to Puerto Plata with a slightly different agenda this time. This was a weekend day so more people around. While we waited for our turn on the cable car we enjoyed a local band.
This time we were all eager to hike the many trails at the top of the mountain. Some of the areas are so quiet and others filled with tropical birds and lovely views of flora and fauna. Real nice place to explore and a bit cooler than seaside.
We asked our taxi driver to take us to a restaurant that he thought served good local food as we all love to try new things. Sadly, his first three choices were all closed on the weekends. We ended up at a cafeteria style place that did serve tasty local food, just not the atmosphere we were looking for.
Next we drove to the San Felipe Fort that guards the entrance to Puerto Plata harbor. We chose not to go inside the museum/fort, as time was too short. We wandered everywhere outside and enjoyed the view.
Our last stop on the tour was to a large grocery store in the city. We all took the opportunity to restock on a few staples.
We found the fresh produce in Luperon to be plentiful and a great variety. Stephen brought us to a meat store to get smoked pork chops that were so delicious we went back several times! The prices here were so reasonable. This is a great place for cruisers to stock up. We ate out often as well! Their ‘plata de dia’; special of the day, was often only $3.00. We met a few cruisers here, especially when we attended a happy hour one evening at Wendy’s Bar. Great mojitos! It was a friendly crowd, and we exchanged lots of sea stories.
We enjoyed our month long stay in Luperon, DR. It flew by so fast! Before we knew it we were heading out of the harbor in tandem with UJAM’n on our way to the Bahamas. Farewell for now; we will return one day.