Snow Leopard
Tue 26 Jan 2010 20:36

The Latin Islands - Dominican Republic

18:26.7N 69:37.4W


After a slow, rainy and rather gloomy overnight sail we arrived at Bocca Chica in the Dominican Republic. The new marina and anchorage is tucked in behind a solid reef. Here we had our first taste of true latin bureaucracy. We were required to moor alongside in the marina whilst we were visited, en masse, by officials from customs, immigration, coastguard, the drugs enforcement officer, a fatigue-clad gentleman from the navy and another from the maritime ministry. Two hours and much paperwork later we were charged the rip-off $160 to enter Dominican Republic. It appears the officials are testing the water to see how much they can get away with charging. Boats we met in Bocca Chica had been charged anything between $25 and $160 for entry, depending at which port they initially entered the country. Once clear of the paperwork we took a mooring buoy just off the marina which was much more pleasant.


Bocca Chica, about 12 miles from the capital, Santo Domingo is where everyone goes to party. Unbeknown to us, we arrived half–way through a five-day public holiday. The good citizens of the Dominican Republic know only one way to party – have their own music and turn it up LOUD. This could be bearable if it was just one set of music, but every small motorboat who came out to share the anchorage with us had their own music. Add to the mix jet skis, waterskiing, planing speed boats and Bocca Chica could not be described as a tranquil anchorage. However by 3 in the morning things quieten down until about 10 next morning.


Having said that, we rather enjoyed Bocca Chica. The marina staff were incredibly helpful, even taking us to the local supermarket to provision the boat. The drug enforcement officer, Victor, befriended us and insisted on taking us for a typical Dominican Republic breakfast of fish soup, down at the local fishing village. He also took me on a very ‘interesting’ motorbike ride to the nearest cash point. An experience I would rather not repeat


In the anchorage at Bocca Chica was a 50ft catamaran called ‘El Gecco’ which we viewed in Tortola a few years ago and very, very nearly bought (we much prefer Snow Leopard). She is now owned by a South African, Neil Peterson, a well known round-the-world single-handed sailor. Another 60ft cat sailed in sailed by a charming Canadian couple, Paul and Catherine, and their friend Glenn, who turned out to be a great friend of Keith Bliss a friend of ours in England. Glenn rang Keith and I spoke to him once he had got over the confusion of me calling him on Glenn’s phone. We spent a couple of great evenings with them, and also with a young German couple sailing a tiny open decked cat, who managed to produce a wonderful curry for eight at the drop of a hat.


Bocca Chica has a beach several miles long, decked out with thousands of thatch sunshades and even more sun beds. A stroll along the beach was a great way to see the locals at play, interspersed with street vendors selling everything from the local favourite ‘jamekeke’ a popadom-like round deep-fried bread, to toffee apples, jewellery and all manner of other things.


We stayed in Bocca Chica for five days (so it couldn’t have been that bad) before heading off on our final leg to Cuba, a 400 mile sail along the south coast of the Dominican Republic, past Haiti and on to Santiago de Cuba. It was a windy trip with up to 35 knots of wind, but almost always dead behind. The one time the wind came on the beam we hit 20 knots again before deciding it was time to drop the double-reefed main and sail at a steady 10 to 12 knots under jib alone.