Tuesday, November 10, 2015

DR's hidden treasure

At the beginning of our life on board we spent several months in Luperon, Dominican Republic. A country that we learn to love and to hate. The island is called La Hispaniola, which means "The Spanish" in the language of Cervantes but little remains from Spanish rule apart from some historic sites, the language and cultural aspects. However, this is where it all began for the New World with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. La Hispaniola comprises two countries, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The North coast of the Dominican Republic is the Caribbean gateway to many of the boats coming from the North, namely the Bahamas. However, in recent years, due to problems with lack of security and because of the navigation difficulties in these waters, many have avoided stopping in this shore. The Luperon Bay may go unnoticed when sailing along the coast since the access is almost invisible, but is known by all sailors as the best place in the Caribbean to spend the hurricane season. Columbus did also use it for several times...

The history of the New World started very close to Luperon. The first steps in the new land were in La Isabela. A lovely bay of white sand and emerald sea. The first mass in the New World, the first European settlement, the first Catholic church in the Americas.

History and Dominican culture are remarkable. The culture is a mixture of European and native, which resulted in "mestizos" (people of mixed race). The Dominicans have a complexion that contrasts with that of his neighbor. Haitians have darker skin. Currently the Dominican Republic has a population of about 10 million people. Spanish is the only official language but English is widely spoken in touristic areas. The main products for exportation are rice, bananas and chickens, with Haiti being the main destination of these products. The United States and Venezuela are the second main export destinations. After visiting many places across the country, we have to admit that the scenery is breathtaking, the fields are so green that even the breeze smells green. The banana trees are all over the country, it's one of the main products and, of course, is an important staple food in the daily diet of the Dominicans, as the potatoes are to European and rice to Asians. As a result of this abundance and variety, bananas are always part of meals and accompaniments together with beans! However, after several months of this we grew tired of it!

The people are very helpful and always ready to point you in the right direction. In the beginning we though that they want to take advantage of us but, after a few weeks of living among the locals, we learn that they are genuinely good people.

The Dominican government tries to promote the tourism industry and try to protect nature, example of that is the mangrove that is protected by law all over the country. In Luperon Bay all are aware of the pollution problem and the authorities make it very clear that it is strictly prohibited to dump garbage or other pollutants into the waters, for the simple reason that they do not want to spoil the natural cycle and disrupt marine life. In terms of security for boats Luperon is gradually getting better and everyone feels safer now.

The northern part of the Dominican Republic faces the Atlantic Ocean and all its weather and moods. The south hugs the Caribbean Sea and its more pleasant to sail and more protected. An extensive coastline with many fishing ports and infrastructure but where there are still a lot to do in terms of sailing structures.
For pleasure crafts, in the North coast, apart from the luxurious marina in Puerto Plata (Ocean World Marina with very high prices and aimed at the upper class), Luperon that's all that is available. There are many places where we can anchor and be protected from the trade winds but support structures, marinas or places where you can keep a sailboat, nothing more exists. Even in Luperon there is only one dry dock (Marina Tropical – which we don't advise and where our boat was prepared) and two places where there are mooring pontoons (Puerto Blanco Marina and Marina Luperon – where we spent more than one month after leaving the yard), one of which has not even official license.

In our route from Luperon to Puerto Rico we chosen to follow the advice of our friend Bruce Van Sant in his book The Thornless Path and in several talks with him at home. Motorsailing overnight, stopping in more sheltered areas during the day to avoid the trade winds. We made three stops before crossing the Mona Passage. The last one was in Puerto Escondido. A hidden treasure in this desolate rocky coast. This small cove is, for us, the most beautiful place where we stopped to this day.
We arrived early in the morning with a beautiful sunrise and set anchor in a lake of clear water. Literally we could see everything that was in the bottom of the sea and had all the anchorage for us in 20 something feet of water and sand. The area is so protected that the water didn't even moved on the surface. Pity was that, with all the stress of sailing with the new boat for us, little experience, technical problems, baby and dog on board, among many other things, we didn't even enjoy it the way it deserves. Puerto Escondido's water deserve more time to swim, to dive and snorkel. We hope to return one day with more time and advise everyone to stop there, even if just for a swim. 


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