Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The North face of the Caribbean

Posting note
This article was originally wrote to be published in Fragrant Harbour and also in Cruising World magazines. I'm not sure if they were published, however, i'm posting it here free of charge and it's original version.

We were recently in the Caribbeans, more specifically in the Dominican Republic, one of the main ports of entry into the Caribbean Sea.
In the other side of the world (we live in Macau, China) the recreational boating sector it’s alive and kicking, in opposition to what is happening in our region with all the lack of infrastructure and Government unwilling to create more opportunities. 
On this recent trip, which had as main objective preparing a boat for a circumnavigation, we were in this country that, little by little, is starting to be a good option for a technical stop when sailing from Bermuda or the American Atlantic coast en route to the Caribbean.
The island of Hispaniola, which includes two countries, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is the ideal place for a technical stop to rest and refuel for the boats and crews making the run South or North. We were in Puerto Plata, Luperon and other places of the coast facing the Atlantic with the trade winds blowing strong at this time of year. On this side of the island there are two large marinas, Ocean World Marina in Puerto Plata, which include a luxury resort with casino and water park (prices and information bellow) and Puerto Bahia Marina (prices and information in the box). And there is another option, that although they call it marina, it’s a yard with dockage area adjacent to a huge bay. This new place is now emerging in the sailing community and making a name to themselves among the cruisers that ever year pass through these waters heading North or South. Although it’s in a area that many say it’s filthy and dangerous, we can assure you that’s changing rapidly.
The Marina Tropical Luperon, completely out of the beaten track of the flocks of tourists that populate Dominican Republic, specially the North coast where Puerto Plata it’s the main attraction, presents itself as the ideal place to spend the hurricane season. In fact, the Luperon Bay is known as a hurricane hole since the times of Colombo. According to historical record, Christopher Columbus anchored his fleet there to protect them from one of these storms that affect much of the Caribbean, Central and North America every year.
With excellent natural conditions, the Luperon Bay offers everything that a cruiser could want. Calm and clean waters, lush mangrove, immigration services and grocery stores, restaurants and local fresh market, health center, banks and even a small hotel for those wishing to get their land legs back.
This side of the island of Hispaniola is still little used by sailboats on route from the North, the Bahamas, Bermuda or Florida or even further North and bound to the Caribbean, suffering with a very unstable situation in the neighboring country, Haiti
However, the authorities continue to work to promote an image of security. During our stay in the area we did not see any signs of instability or insecurity. However, to address this problem Tropical Marina, with it’s new manager, a Russian national with plenty of experience in the boating industry, being a captain for many years and also with wide experience running marinas in the US, has security guards 24 hours and one can only enter the perimeter of the marina after being identified.
I think the reason for the North side of the island to continue to be less used than the South side facing the Caribbean Sea, has more to do with lack of information then that lack of security or infrastructures.
This Marina though small, with capacity for only 10 boats on pontoons, has a completely protected bay with a capacity of over 200 vessels which is managed by the Marinha de Guerra (Dominican Republic Navy) and is the delight of those who live there for most of the year on board sailing boats. The shuttling of dinghies is a 
constant in both the Marina and coastal areas that provide access to the village.
In addition to locations in the water Marina Tropical also offers an extensive area of dry dock where boats can be clean and small works can be carried out by its crew or by labor provided by the Marina.
During our stay we could count 11 sailing boats on the yard and two motorboats, and seven in the water. We were able to see also the haul out of a Lagoon 45 catamaran, registered in the British Virgin Islands and with a Burmese crew. The hauling out system can work with boats up to 60 feet.
To reach Luperon by land the best way is to rent a car in Santo Domingo or Puerto Plata and drive towards Santiago de Los Caballeros, the second largest city on the island, and at 22 km after Puerto Plata, turn right, following 30 km more to reach the village of Luperon. The roads have clear directions, the only drawback is that the fuel is one of the most expensive in the world. The access to the marina still a bit undeveloped, with and the dirt road becoming almost impossible to drive in case of rain if you don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle, as we were able to testify with our rental car (Hyundai Tucson)! This is one of items in the priority list that the management of the Marina has been trying to solve with the local authorities but, as in all aspects of government in these Caribbean countries, takes time!
At the time of our visit they had just had installed running water and to the end of March was scheduled the connection of electric power from the public grid. As for now, the power is supplied with generators on site.
In the Dominican Republic there are nine marinas, almost all located in the Southern part of the island, facing the Caribbean Sea where the greater movement of boats usually is and it’s for many years part of the Caribbean circuit of cruisers.
Thousands of boats from the United States and Canada come here every year for the Caribbean season, making this side of the island a perfect gateway to the remaining Caribbean more to South, BVI, Guadaloupe, Martinique, Barbados or even to South American countries like Venezuela, Colombia or Panama. To the North with Turks and Caicos, Cuba, The Bahamas or the coast of United States being the main destinations.
The marinas in the North coast of Dominican Republic are, Salinas Hotel and Marina in Ocoa Bay; Zarpar Marina in Boca Chica, Marina Punta Cana and Cap Cana Marina in Punta Cana; Nautic Club of Santo Domingo, Santo Domingo, Nautic Club of Haina, in Haina, Nautic Club of Andrés, in Andrés Bay; Casa de Campo Marina in Romana.

24-hour security
10 moorings up to 150 ft
Bathrooms and showers
Electricity and water
Yard for repairs
Emigration on site
Garbage collection
GPS coordinates: Latitude N 19 ° 53,38 '- W 70 ° 57,15
10.00US$ to 15.00US$ per day for wet slips10.00US$ to 12.00US$ per day for yard storage
Special prices for longer stays to be agreed on arrival

50 moorings up to 250 feet
Depth 12 feet
Water and Electricity
Free wifi internet
Bathrooms with shower
24-hour security
Emigration onsite
Pump for waste tanks
GPS coordinates: Latitude N 19 ° 50,095 '- Longitude W 70 ° 43,535'
1.6US$ per foot per day
Special prices for longer stays to be agreed on arrival

More than 200 moorings up to 150 feet
Depth 10 feet
Internet access
Water and electricity
24-hour security
Services for boats in transitWeather and navigational information
Car hire and taxi
Garbage collection
Water Taxi
Bars and Restaurants
Spa and hair saloon
Bathrooms and showers
GPS coordinates: Latitude N 19 ° 11,670 '- W 69 ° 21,158'
0.9US$ to 2.00US$ per foot per day
Special prices for longer stays to be agreed on arrival


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