The last paragraph of my last post I wrote that we’d stay in Dominican Republic a short while. Well, I think 20 hours is very short! It also turned out to be one of the shortest and most expensive country stops we’ve ever had.
Travelling east requires a lot of engine time trying to battle the easterly wind so we needed to get fuel. As such we had to check into DR. Through ActiveCaptain reviews, Noonsite and other mediums, we were wary of DR’s reputation for requesting money at every opportunity. Although we expected to pay at least US$110 on arrival plus $40 to exit, we wanted to lessen the opportunities for authorities to demand ‘propina’. With favourable winds, we motor sailed from the west of Dominican Republic 180nm to Casa de Campo, bypassing ports of Barahona, Salinas, and Boca Chica (the latter supposedly the worst for bribery).
Casa de Campo is a large and exclusive resort complex, with a marina. From the onset we knew it would cost us. To be fair, the harbourmaster, Oscar, told us to expect to be somewhat poorer for the experience, but besides the cost to check in and out (US$176 plus $40 to exit), the process was efficient and courteous. Casa de Campo’s berths are 90% owner occupied and they do not cater for transients. They had absolutely no vacancies for us, but thankfully Oscar said that Blue Heeler and Sweet Sensation could anchor for free until we departed. That was a bonus!
Once again though our timetable is dictated to us by the winds and within 24 hours, we’d fuelled up, topped up with shopping (at the well stocked supermarket). With light winds expected over the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico and stronger winds following soon after, we left by mid morning to reach Punta Real, south of Mayaguez in Puerto Rico. That was a short and expensive visit!
We arrived at Punta Real and the Marina Pescaderia on the morning on Valentine’s Day, 2016. In ActiveCaptain we’d read that this was a good place to stop to get fuel, food and also check in with the authorities. Wayne and Kevin called the authorities to advise our arrival and give them our specific details. We would have to go to Mayaguez to check in with Customs – about 20kms north. As we’d arrived on a Sunday and Monday was a public holiday (President’s Day), we couldn’t go to Customs until Tuesday. Over those two days at the marina we did the usual maintenance jobs after weeks offshore.
It wasn’t so easy to get to Customs as first thought, but a local guy we’d met took us in his cousin’s car to Mayaguez. He doesn’t actually work at the marina but likes to help out and lives nearby. That day we went to Customs, supermarket and the bank. The day before he also drove around to help Wayne fill our propane tank and also found an impeller for our outboard – what a nice guy!
On Wednesday we left the berth before the wind got up then filled the tanks with diesel at an unbelievably low price of US$1.87 per gallon (around US$0.45 per litre). On anchor we could still use the marina facilities for $10 per day.
By Thursday Sweet Sensation decided to leave and make good use of the light winds for two days. We, on the other hand, had some jobs to attend to, and as we aren’t in as much of a hurry now, we could slow down the pace. Wayne spent that day in the engine room attempting to fix a problem with our transmission!
By 7am on Friday 19th we raised the anchor and began our journey east and by 4pm we’d reached the popular port of Ponce. Here the toxic smell of the nearby port was pretty bad, and the anchorage wasn’t particularly large, given there were lots of moorings scattered throughout (not worthy of a photo!). Okay, so this was the cheapest place for fuel – a ridiculously low price of US$1.78 per gallon.
It was lovely to catch up again with Hallberg Rassy owners Elisabet and Karl from Spray at Ponce. On Saturday we motored across to Isla de Caja de los Muertos outside Ponce (where we walked to the lighthouse), we then had a hard close hauled sail to Salinas snapping photos of each other’s boat along the way.
Salinas has a shallow entrance but once in we anchored in around 3m. The Salinas Yacht Club offers transients use of their dinghy dock, rubbish bins and laundry facilities. This is a nice place to stop. As bad luck would have it, sadly we missed Ever After, Salme and Tom who we hadn’t seen since Durban, South Africa and had planned to catch up with. While we were at Isla Muertos, they entered into Ponce from the east! We missed them literally by hours. We also missed the crew of Sunflower who we hadn’t seen since Richards Bay, as we headed further east the next day, but managed to speak to them on the radio.
Spray had rented a car so on Monday morning they were kind enough to take us to the shops with them for a huge provisioning shop. Food and provisions get very expensive in the Virgin Islands so this is the last place to really stock up at reasonable prices.
On the Monday we continued our journey east, stopping overnight at Puerto Patillas, then the following day to the north west corner of Culebra in the Spanish Virgins. Lovely place with moorings at Playa Carlos Rosario where we stayed for two days snorkeling. This is a good place to walk to the popular Flamenco Beach (see photo below), supposedly number six in the Top 10 Beaches of the World (obviously whoever put that list together hasn’t been to Perth in Western Australia which I think has the best beaches in the world, so there!). It was a nice beach nonetheless.
Now we are anchored at the small town of Dewey on Culebra. Anchored here also are our friends Maila and Heiki from Kaste-Helme! We haven’t seen them since Knysna in South Africa over a year ago. So nice to see them again! Finally after so many nights on anchor, we dinghied across to the Dinghy Dock bar and restaurant and had a relaxing drink then dinner with Elisabet and Karl.
Still held up by strong easterlies, we hope to head over to Culebrita over the weekend to do some more snorkeling (and perhaps a dive if it’s worth it). After this we will head across to the US Virgins then the British Virgin Islands for a couple of weeks before we head to St Maarten. We do hope to see other cruisers heading west that we haven’t seen for many months. We’ll keep a lookout…