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Old 01-04-2012, 11:06   #1
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Info on Dominican Republic

We are planning to head home to FL from the BVIs and plan to stop in the DR. Anyone have any info on visiting the DR? Is it better to go into marinas rather than anchor? I have heard that it is preferable.

Will leave from PR, cross the Mona and then coast up to Samana Bay and the north side of DR to make a crossing to Turks and Caicos. Any help/advice appreciated.

CJ
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Old 01-04-2012, 11:25   #2
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Re: Info on Dominican Republic

See Frank Virgintino’s free cruising guides (DR included):
Free Cruising Guides

And ➥ Dominican Republic - Google Search
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Old 01-04-2012, 13:31   #3
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Re: Info on Dominican Republic

Our experience with Samana in 2010: very bureaucratic, very slow. It took us a few trips and long waits just to get permission to sail to the next port (we had checked in at Ocean World without a hassle). I would think check-in to the country will be just as slow (or slower). There are unlit boats traversing the harbour at night and someone approached us about "harbour security". We didn't take up his offer, but were ok (anchored as far from town as possible).

That said, the Samana national park was gorgeous with caves, waterfalls, mangrove explorations, islands covered with birds, stunning sunsets, warm water.

A few thoughts on Samana:
- Anchor in town harbour and go do check-in right away. We waited (wanted to eat and swim before going to town), so ended up with some very upset officials on our boat... Maybe that was the reason for super-slow bureaucracy. They close at 5 and don't do weekends.
- Watch for cruise ships coming into Samana - there's a small island just before Samana town where they stop.
- You will be required to do check-in and out of every port you call into in DR. Don't take this lightly. If your paper says you're going A to B, don't skip and go to C. It'll be a long process getting everything sorted out. A to C, but stopping in B is better, but we were suggested not to check-in in B in that case.
- Samana town advertises a trip to the waterfalls. It's a long-ish donkey ride up and down hills and a swim in fairly large waterfalls. Pretty, but quite a few groups of tourists. Our friends who came with us on this trip decided the waterfalls weren't worth the donkey ride. We thought it was ok.
- You will be required to get the paper stating your next port of call after Samana inside DR. The advice we were given is not to state that you want to spend a few days in the national park. The DR officials don't like foreign boats going to non-officiated places. We just stated Punta Cana as our next destination after Samana and spent a few days in the park.
- A bit into the bay after Samana town there is a new marina. When we were there it was still being built, so we had almost free dockage. Maybe it would be easier to check in there.
- Don't miss the national park - there is the main bay where everyone anchors and where the caves are. The caves are worth a dinghy trip. A bit further into Samana bay there are a ton of smaller islands, coves, and bays - absolutely magical place. People say it looks a lot like Thailand.
- In the park when sailing close to small islands and rocks, be careful - rocks and small stones frequently fall and real depths may be much smaller than charted.
- We thoroughly enjoyed explorations by dinghy, but remember that the wind starts in the second half of the day, so the drive back to the boat may be much slower, wetter, and wavier. Plan your route well and watch the weather.
- Fishermen in small boats set up shrimp nets at sunset. We stopped one and asked for a few shrimp and he gave us a big bowl of large, still alive shrimps. He asked for $1-2 for all of them, we gave him $5 and everyone was happy. It was our first (and so far last) time eating shrimp so fresh!
- Sailing Samana in the dark is quite an adventure as there are many small unlit fishing boats throughout the bay.
- The whales were all that was advertised - jumps, flips, and tail shows!

Passage to Puerto Plata:
- We and two more boats sailing through Frenchman's [Englishman's?] bay on the way from Puerto Plata to Samana saw nav lights that would go on an intercept course, jump location, and go too fast for a normal boat for about 2 hours. We also saw radar blips where the lights were, but one of the other two boats didn't. Very nerve racking. Later locals told us that fishermen see these lights frequently as there is a sad love story of an Englishman's wife running away with a Frenchman, and the englishman's still looking for her.

Puerto Plata: when we were there Cofresi wasn't open, we didn't want to stop in Luperon as the check-in was supposed to be not very simple, so we stayed in Ocean World. Ok, some swell gets in. Note, that if you've ever wanted to touch dolphins, Ocean World's dolphinarium is told to be "the best", as in the closest contact with dolphins out of all of them.

But the best thing in Puerto Plata was our trip to 27 waterfalls. You are given a guide, shoes, lifejackets, and hard hats. Then you climb up some waterfalls (3, 10, or the whole 27) and slide back down them. Gorgeous nature and a bit of a thrill We did 10 as there were too many people going on 3. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Enjoy this country!
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Old 01-04-2012, 16:16   #4
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Re: Info on Dominican Republic

Thank you, that is very helpful information!!

CJ
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Old 01-04-2012, 16:58   #5
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Re: Info on Dominican Republic

If you are in a hurry to get back to Florida the normal "delivery" route is to stop at Ocean World just west of Puerto Plata, refuel and then head back out to the Bahamas or down the Old Bahamas Channel to Florida.

If you are looking to sightsee and visit places then stopping in Samana is great and actually the only legal port on the northeast side of the Dominican Republic for private yachts to stop. (Further south is Punta Cana and further west is Ocean World, Puerto Plata.)

D.R. officialdom is quite archaic and quaint. I have had as many as five officials crowd into my little 8 ft dinghy and ride back out to my boat. Every one had wet bottoms by the time they got back to shore. They take their time and fill out the forms and usually expect "refreshments" (coca-colas or iced tea no matter what they ask for). "Tips" are appreciated usually in the US$5 to $10 range, but that only makes them happy and pleasant - they will do their jobs without any tips.

All together for a mid sized boat with two people you can expect about US$100 - plus or minus $20 to check in. Checking out involves getting a Dispachio from the local Commandante (for a US$20 tip) and you must list your next D.R. Port. The legal ports-of-entry from Samana northwest are Puerto Plata, Luperon and Manzanillo.

Traveling west I always list Luperon on the Dispachio even if I intend to continue non-stop to T&C or Mayaguana, Bahamas. This prevents having to pay all over again should you "have to" stop again in the D.R. for some reason or other.

Luperon has a shallow bar at its entrance and if you draw over 7 feet you might need to plan the tides carefully. Also it is a daytime entrance/exit only as they really aren't any navigation markers.

Luperon - other than the cost of the officials for initial check-in - is quite inexpensive and has a major "ex-pat" community and community of former cruisers. Bruce Van Sant lives there. So it is a 3rd World experience and if you are into that sort of stuff quite pleasant. I spent over a year there over a 4 year period. There is a lot to do and see. Leaving is the same - you need a dispachio from the Commandante (US$20).

Ocean World, Puerto Plata is located just outside and west of Puerto Plata. Puerto Plata Harbor is off-limits to non-D.R. private vessels. Ocean World is great for power yachts and is definitely "up-scale" although it is subject to surge and rolling in the slips. For quick stops it is quite convenient.

The Dominican Republic has an enormous amount of wonderful things to do and see including a 10,000ft mountain, waterfalls, ancient Chris Columbus sites, and lots of activities from horseback riding to mountain climbing. And just plain old sightseeing. The people are generally agricultural and quiet and friendly. Just stay away from "car washes."
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Old 01-04-2012, 17:17   #6
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Re: Info on Dominican Republic

Luperon was easy check in, Samana was a little more involved but not a huge deal. They actually came to the boat in Samana. Hot day. The drug guy asked if we had any coke. I told him "no Drogos" except prescription. They all laughed and then I realized they wanted a cold Cola! I think it might have been a joke they do alot. In Samana friends checked in and had to take their AR-15 to be held in bond . The park is worth a visit to Samana if you have time. Otherwise I'd just head to Luperon I guess.
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Old 02-04-2012, 03:15   #7
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Re: Info on Dominican Republic

We did the whole DR cruising (north, east, and south coasts) without bribes. I would think that Samana guys would've been more pleasant and quick if we offered them a bribe.

I think that online guide mentions that now DR is trying to get away from obligatory bribes. So if you know any official who insists on a bribe, you can report him, get him into trouble, and get thanks from the government.

We decided to help the government and not distribute any bribes Though it made for slower and less happy officials in some places.
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Old 02-04-2012, 07:04   #8
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Re: Info on Dominican Republic

Having lived in the D.R. and knowing the officials that deal with us and our boats I have reached a personal opinion that the "tip" could be better described as a "User Fee." That is something North Americans are very familiar with since we have to pay again for services from our government that we paid for with our general taxes.

But anyway, the wages of these very low level officials is barely subsistence level and when I "help" them and their families out with a little extra, the gratitude inevitably is returned in better and prompter service "next time." It is only at much higher levels of officialdom that I get offended by needed to "lubricate" the system although such is "world normal." It is just called by different names when you to supposedly 1st World Countries. I think we have heard of or seen "expedited service" fees on a lot of documents and things we cruisers need to travel.
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Old 02-04-2012, 08:54   #9
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Re: Info on Dominican Republic

Maybe it is different for cruisers, but when I was in the DR a few years ago their hand barely even moved faster to pick-up the tip. It was almost like it was a bother not worth the effort to pick-up my $20.
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Old 03-04-2012, 01:58   #10
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Re: Info on Dominican Republic

We were talking with a teacher in a smaller village and she mentioned that these government official's wages are nice comparing to other people in DR. Plus, based on our experience with USSR officials like this (low on the hierarchy) usually lead very sweet lives greased by everyone around. And if, in addition to their regular bribes, every boat gives them $20, that becomes a very nice salary indeed.

Having lived in a country where bribes were a way of life, it's not something we are crazy about. Maybe giving a bribe for an official to go above and beyond their duty is maybe acceptable (though after living in Canada we don't think so). But giving an official a bribe for just doing their job doesn't sit well with us. Especially when the country's policy is to get rid of such bribes.

We would rather give some moeny to someone lower on the "foodchain", like fishermen. But that's just based on our experiences.
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Old 03-04-2012, 06:48   #11
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Re: Info on Dominican Republic

We went through the DR in early summer 2011 eastbound. Luperon and then Samana. Enjoyed the experience.

In Samana, we stayed at a new marina, just past the anchorage. Very nice, but remote from the town and local culture. Customs is simple, arranged by the dock master, and they come to you. We saw only one official.

In Luperon, you go to the town dock, and get to see many officials. Everyone was easy to work with, but plan an hour or two. Most likely they will send a couple of officials out to the boat with you to inspect the boat after you finish the paperwork. Very cursory inspection.

We did offer refreshments, but no extra cash.

We visited Ocean World Marina by land. It was almost empty the day we were there. There is a great supermarket in Puerto Plata for reprovisioning at reasonable prices. From Luperon, it cost us about 75 USD, to hire a car and driver for the day and we did some sightseeing along the way.

Most people we've met, either like the DR or don't. Not many in the middle. It's a completely different experience than the rest of the Eastern Caribbean.

We have more on our blog at:

Http://www.ebaugh.net

Regards, Bob
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Old 23-10-2012, 09:47   #12
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Re: Info on Dominican Republic

Hello Sailors, There are some developments in Samana. A gentleman named Alfredo, boat builder, captain, etc has begun offering full service for yachts and boats. Haulouts can be arranged. He's a great source for everything marine. A mooring field is being created with 24/7 security and walking distance to town. He is a great resource and is super helpful. Also, he speaks five languages including English.

Anyway, he built a sweet 23'center console for me last summer and the process could not have been more pleasant. samanaboatworks.com
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