Samana, Dominican Republic
Date: Sunday 15th February 2015
Position: 19:11.675N 69:21.316W
On balance we enjoyed our stay in Luperon, but eventually the time came to leave and make our way further down the coast. The next stop would be Samana, about 24 hours sail away, so leaving early in the morning would be important as it would ensure that we could get the maximum benefit from the reduced winds that typically occur at night time and early morning along that coast. But before we could leave we would have to visit the commandante to arrange our papers.
I went ashore to do the paperwork on Friday evening, expecting to be able to depart at first light on Saturday morning. It took a long time, but eventually all appeared to be in order. However the commandante told me that I would have to return first thing in the morning to finalise the process, before we were free to go. We agreed a time of 6:00am. So early on Saturday morning I took the dinghy ashore and at the agreed time presented myself at the commandante’s building. No-one was awake. After a few minutes of making loud noises someone shuffled into view, clearly freshly raised from their slumbers. After about 30 minutes waiting a junior officer told me that he wanted me to take him back to my boat before he would issue my paperwork, so off we went, me leading and the half-awake officer following behind. As we passed the wooden huts where we had checked in a couple of weeks before another figure stumbled into line and the three of us walked in single file towards the dinghy dock. None of us spoke but I could hear the odd flatulent retort from my companions following behind me. When I glanced backwards I saw much yawning and scratching of various body parts. Half way back to the dinghy a stray dog saw us, paused momentarily in attending to its fleas and presumably thinking that we might be about to do something interesting, joined in at the rear as our procession increased in length. At the dinghy dock a third officer was waiting for us. I managed to get rid of the dog but it was four of us who got into the dinghy and returned to the boat.
As we approached I managed to find the words in Spanish to tell them to remove their shoes before getting on board. After a few frowns, one of them repeated what I had just said to the others, this time in good Spanish and they nodded in agreement. The junior officer, who was wearing military style boots with laces half way up his calves, elected to stay in the dinghy rather than remove them, so only two of them got on board and entered the saloon.
What followed next was all a bit bizarre. They just sat there looking as though they were a little embarrassed, looking around and pointing at things on the boat and trying to make comments about them. After a few minutes one of them brought out a tablet computer from his bag and typed away. After a while he pointed the screen at me and looked at me with an earnest _expression_. He had been using a language translation program and there on the screen were the English words:
…………Please to give us some money.
I gave them $10 which they grudgingly accepted but I guess they were hoping for more. Then I had to ferry them all back ashore, this time with much laughter, smiles and back slapping on their part, then return to the boat and stow the dinghy prior to departure. So it wasn’t until 9:00am that we were able to get on our way. If only they had told me on Friday evening that there was a fee to pay before we could leave, even if that fee was technically a bribe, then I would have willingly paid them more just to have been able to leave early Saturday morning. What a farce.
From what I have learned paying extra fees to officials is quite normal in the DR. Their official salaries are very low and it is expected that they will bolster their income by inventing ‘fees’ that need to be paid. They don’t call them bribes, although this is clearly what they are. Coming from northern Europe it’s all a little difficult to accept, but then if the ‘bribes’ were to become official charges it is almost certain that all of the money would go into the pockets of the senior officials at the top of the line of command, leaving the guys at the bottom even worse off than they are at present. At least this way the money goes to those in most need.
After leaving Luperon we motored for most of the rest of the day. But by late evening the wind had started to blow, and from a direction that we could sail by. Just like our trip down from The Turks & Caicos, this was contrary to the forecast weather so we were delighted for the unexpected gift of a sailing breeze.
The three American boats that had arrived in Luperon at the same time as us a week or so ago had also left at the same time, albeit a few hours ahead of us as they had avoided the complications we had experienced with the commandante’s men. We chatted with the skipper on Discovery several times during the night.
We overtook them at some point and arrived in Samana Bay just as the first signs of light were making their presence in the eastern sky. We sailed past the town of Samana and made for the modern marina situated a couple of miles west of it.
By 8:00am on Sunday morning we were docked and entertaining a new bunch of officials who processed our paperwork, this time a little more efficiently than their comrades in Luperon.