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Old 04-11-2009, 20:11   #46
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I have lived in the D.R. over the last 8 years for varying periods of up to 8 months - probably totaling out at a couple of years over those 8 years. The D.R. is a wonderful island and has an enormous amount of things to do and experience. However, it is a Spanish heritage island with some of the most (it is hard these days to quantify who amongst the west Caribbean islands are the most corrupt) corrupt officials. It is not intended but is the result of desperately under paid officials. It has always been the custom in the D.R. to "tip" officials to get any service. If they know you, the "tipping" is minimal or not required. Otherwise they are always asking for anything from small to enormous "tips/fees" for any and everything. It is just a way of life there.
- - It is still illegal to stop in any harbors, port, coves, or bays along the coastline of the D.R. without a Despachio from the Navy specifically authorizing a stop at anyplace other than ports of entry. The reason for this is the growing and hazardous drug trade transiting the D.R. from Columbia to the USA. Even with a Despachio giving permission it is normal for the local officials and "freelance" officials to board and inspect your boat and then ask for a "tip/fee" for the stopping there. Some of the "tip/fees" are minimal and some are downright outrageous. It is also dangerous to stop in a lot of places as charts do not exist and reefs and passes can be very dangerous. More than one of my friends as ended up on a reef and then incurred enormous "fees" by locals for assisting you off the reef even when you did not want any assistance. As Wlearl has mentioned you really do not want to argue with somebody carrying an automatic weapon or a 45cal sidearm.
- - You may get away with stopping at some isolated coves and bays but it is rather hazardous. There are several marinas on the south side and I would suggest using them for security reasons.
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Old 04-11-2009, 23:09   #47
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Originally Posted by wlearl View Post
I'd be really interested in any reports from anyone who has sailed along the south coast of the DR. Not that I don't trust Frank, just that more information is always nice.
I sailed the south coast of DR in April of 2002. I no longer have any charts, but there's really no place to stop until you get to Santa Domingo and even they don't know what to do with cruisiers. Peternella(sp) and Barahlona(sp) had no idea what to do with sailboats.

Stay well south of the shoal areas as the west flowing current really gets confused.

As noted in another post, everyone is on the take. It's there culture. Immigration first demanded $700 US but after awhile we settled on $50.
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Old 05-11-2009, 10:40   #48
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a word of advice to anyone who is uncomfortable with corruption/bribery/the reality of underpaid officials -

Dont go there if you cant learn to live with it. Any one of us would do exactly the same thing if it meant the difference between feeding our kids and seeing them go hungry. We have it easy here in the USA - Dont assume people in other countries are looking at the same menu of choices that you are.

And as for rules and laws that seem silly to you - It is their country. When a guest in someone else's house you have to follow their rules.
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Old 05-11-2009, 11:55   #49
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Very well said sck5 - - Over the years I have seen hundreds of "newbie's" from North America set out down island only to be shocked at the cost of the Bahamas; and then the major shock of a real "3rd World" country of poverty and what we call corruption (they call it staying alive) when they get to the Dominican Republic. It is too much for their "pure souls" and they return home or hurry on to Puerto Rico. Real life outside North America can be a real eye-opener. In these countries young women have only two options in life, get married and pregnant or work as a bar girl/escort (etc.). While riding through the country-side on motor bikes or motor cycles whenever you stop in small farm communties or villages for a beer the mothers with gather around you and try to fix you up with their teenage daughters who are incredibly good looking full grown women. The idea is to get rid of the daughter and maybe acquire a "rich gringo" son in law. "Rich gringo" is anybody with more than $100 in their pockets or old guys living on U.S. Social Security. More than a few "young and old men" have gotten into serious trouble there.
- - Very few young single-hand cruising men and older single-handers can successfully get past the D.R. without an "entanglement" occurring. The record I have seen was in Samana where my single-hander companion boater lasted only 7 minutes between dropping anchor and having a new girl friend. A real "head-turner and you walk into a lampost" kind of young woman.
- - If you can psychologically deal with the reality of their lives, then the D.R. is a paradise for young and old. If not, then you sail on down island to Puerto Rico, the Virgins and beyond.
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Old 06-11-2009, 04:34   #50
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Piracy??

We're still thinking of taking the Windward Passage and southern coast of the Dominican Republic. In a conversation the other day someone mentioned the possibility of piracy. I can't say I'm really worried about it but...Has anyone heard of any piracy when transiting the waters off Haiti or the DR? Well, except for the officials and their occasional excessive demands.

Actually having lived in Latin America for a long time, I'm not too worried about dealing with the occasional mordida. It's inconvenient because you never know quite how much it might be but it is common in poor countries.

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Old 06-11-2009, 04:36   #51
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I have travelled a lot in south/central america on land and sea and while I understand the points about corruption/getting by, I think many on this forum are looking at it through rose tinted spectacles.

Being a customs officer/policeman/soldier in a developing nation is a good job in it's own right, it provides money, status and protection to the family - they do not need to supplement it via bribes/tips, they choose to do so, after all who doesn't want some extra money right, what harm can it do?

When officials start taking bribes/tips they are taking advantage of their very important role, it starts off inocuous, but it can easily escalate into expecting tips/bribes from everyone including the locals. That tip from the cruiser, escalates to tips from businesses that serve them, then full scale protection money.

It used to be frequent in Peru in late 80's early 90's to be arrested by the police for drug offenses, they didn't even bother to plant the drugs on you, just took you to the station, showed you what you had on you then offered to release you for a very large "tip" (US$5000 in my case) so you don't have to face the corrupt judge, with the planted drugs the police supplied and receive a prison sentence. Hmm 5k or 10 years in prison, fun choice. It didn't die out because we understood the cultural issues, it died out because tourism dried up, and a less corrupt government came to power.

It all sounds reasonable, it's just a tip, it's part of the culture etc etc, however the locals who aren't cops don't appreciate it when they have to pay bribes too, how many developing nations are there where the population don't fear and hate the corrupt police? Not many in my opinion.

We are targets as cruisers and westerners and while rolling over is a great short term solution, don't fool yourself that the only issue is understanding the culture, that doesn't do the vast majority of the people that live in the country a favour long term.

If you want another obvious example look at aid to Africa and Government corruption, it's cultural, it's been going on for years and it kills hundreds of thousands of people every year - the west has an obligation to stamp out developing world corruption and it starts by putting up some resistance at a personal level.

Totally off topic, but hey we all need a Friday rant!
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Old 06-11-2009, 06:21   #52
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- - I would totally agree that your example of Peru and the phony "drug" arrests are clearly "corruption" in every sense of the word. That same practice is alive and well in the USA and used to incarcerate people who the authorities cannot "get" by normally accepted means. So that type of "corruption" is flagrant and actively practiced in every country from 1st World to "N-th" World.
- - However the bribes system at the lowest level with ordinary people dealing with minor officials goes back thousands of years and in some countries is "traditional." It is sort of like the "waitress" situation in the USA as the employer is allowed to pay half the "legal minimum wage" and the employee is expected to make up the difference by "tips." These 3rd World governments know the lowly officials will be receiving these "tips" and thereby pays them substandard wages. In these countries the governments are not "fat" with revenue as basically they have no idea who or how many people are actually in their country primarily because the vast majority work for cash or barter and no records are kept. In Grenada for instance, the senior Customs official told a group of cruisers during a seminar that the government very appreciated the cruising community because 80% of the incoming revenue to the government comes from tourist/visitor activities and businesses.
- - Although to us coming from supposedly "corruption clean" countries this system seems repugnant, to the citizens of the other countries in the world, it is just "how things have always been done." There are great advantages to the individual who can afford it as rules and regulations seem to "melt away" with sufficient "grease."
- - Trying to "fight tradition" all by yourself or even in the numbers we as cruisers represent is self-defeating. Allowing it to get out of control by "over-paying" the fees or by not bargaining the fee down doesn't help anybody. You ultimate vote is to simply not go to these places. But with poor countries who have nothing or very little anyway they really aren't going to miss you.
- - However the business people who employ locals to service the visitor/tourist/cruiser community really feel the pinch when nobody shows up anymore. They normally gather together and beat up on the politicians to stop or cut back on such corruption. They use the argument of unemployed citizens who vote will not take kindly to the politician come next election. That really gets the politician's attention and something is usually done to reign in the wayward officials. Witness the BVI situation last year with the massive fee increase for boats in the BVI. The backpedaling by the head of government was dramatic.
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Old 06-11-2009, 06:48   #53
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We're still thinking of taking the Windward Passage and southern coast of the Dominican Republic. In a conversation the other day someone mentioned the possibility of piracy. I can't say I'm really worried about it but...Has anyone heard of any piracy when transiting the waters off Haiti or the DR? Well, except for the officials and their occasional excessive demands.

Actually having lived in Latin America for a long time, I'm not too worried about dealing with the occasional mordida. It's inconvenient because you never know quite how much it might be but it is common in poor countries.

Bill
- - Piracy in my definition has to do with theft and assault occurring to/on a vessel underway or at anchor. Everything else is classified as various other names for thefts/assaults.
- - The primary problems in the surrounding waters of Haiti is "hi-jacking" of your vessel for use to transport Haitians to Florida and the Bahamas. There isn't much of a market inside Haiti for boat parts, equipment unless you have a lot of normal land-side stuff like computers, etc. Of course, money is always a target. But by and large they are looking for vessels to transport "illegals" to the USA and other islands.
- - As with any piracy problems it is all in your timing. If you are transiting the area in gentle sea conditions, and/or transiting their typical fishing areas, and/or happen upon an overloaded, un-seaworthy boat full of refugees - you might not survive the experience. If your timing is good you will encounter none of these and just sail on by unnoticed.
- - The very few boats that do stop at Ile de Vache off the south side of Haiti have reported no bad experiences there. Of course there are few destinations available to fleeing Haitians leaving by the south coast. Most leave by the north coast.
- - The "normal suggested routing" through the Windward Passage is to stay at least 25 nm north of the Isle de Tortuga and then cross over to the Cuban side and run the 12nm border until you can lay a line to Port Antonio, Jamaica - or in this case cross under Haiti by whatever you consider a comfortable distance offshore - certainly out of sight of land and "off-soundings."
- - By my definition above, there have been no piracy problems in the D.R. waters. The problems are basically caused by lack of ability to speak fluent Spanish and also not having a bargaining background to deal with local officials. Young locals who get the word that you are a "gringoe" and anchored nearby will be tempted to swim or boat out to your anchored vessel and help you lighten the load on your waterline - but these incidents are very rare but do occur more often along the south side than the north side of the D.R. A much larger percentage of the population lives on the south side of the island.
- - The south side of the D.R. is a major fishing region and also a major "sport-fishing" region. So there is a lot of boat traffic in the area along with reefs and shoals as in common on the south side of all the Leewards and western Caribbean Islands.
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Old 06-11-2009, 13:41   #54
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Sorry the reference to officials was a pretty weak joke. I'm not seriously worried about piracy in this region. We've been living part time in Puerto Rico for a couple of years and I haven't heard anything about real piracy. I know that boat theft for transporting people and sometimes drugs is a problem in some areas, especially in some parts of the Bahamas. But that's power boats and especially those capable of holding 20-40 people (crammed in) and going relatively fast. So, I suppose that sailboats are of little interest.

I'm not too worried about fishing boats or general boat traffic. We'll just keep our eyes out to avoid collisions. I have a bunch of charts and I hope that the shoal areas are charted. Of course nothing substitutes for eyeball piloting. I suppose that if we decide to do any night sailing we should stay out aways and avoid anything that looks shoal on the charts.
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Old 07-11-2009, 07:57   #55
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My Bad

I should have done a little more homework before asking questions about piracy. I found an excellent website The Caribbean Security Net.

Welcome to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net

It looks like a worthwhile site to follow and to send information to, should anything happen. I'm sure it isn't complete but it's a good start. Probably everyone already knows about this site.
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Old 07-11-2009, 08:12   #56
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That is an excellent website for historical instances of confirmed incidents. Melodye who runs both the CSSN on SSB 8104 at 08:15 everyday for the latest "hot" information; also runs the website where she posts confirmed incidents. Combining that source with the Noonsite.com piracy reports gives you a fairly good idea of what is happening around the Caribbean Basin. But there is a major * on these sources - they are past incidents and things are always changing, so some "bad" locations will cycle to "good" while "good" will cycle to "bad". Traveling in "packs" or even loosely with several other cruisers is a very good tactic for safety. And listening to the Coconut Telegraph at 08:00 on 4060 you can get current reports or current locations of friends and then contact them for any updates. Many, many incidents are never reported for many reasons so what you are seeing on these two sources could be the "tip of the iceberg" or an isolated incident.
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Old 07-11-2009, 08:19   #57
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Probably everyone already knows about this site.
Only what I have heard: Their site can scare a poor lil cruiser. The Caribbean is a pretty tame place. They even let folks from the USA go there.

Sure, bad things happen, but nothing like the road toll both at home and on vacation.

If you want to stay safe don't ride motor bikes.

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Old 20-11-2009, 19:35   #58
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south coast of the Dominican Republic

The south Coast of the Dominican Republic has one good harbor after another. Entrance procedures are straightforward on the south coast and the island of Hispaniola provides a nice lee to make your easting.

Anyone who suggest skipping the DR is clearly unaware of what the DR has to offer. The people are friendly, and the costs are low.

In addition it is a lot safer than going east on the north coast of the DR which is a lee shore, where one has to plow right into the trade winds in the Atlantic Ocean.

The southern route around the DR can be reviewed on the FREE cruising guide to the Dominican Republic at Dominican Republic Cruising Guide
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Dominican Republic Cruising Guide
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Old 05-12-2013, 00:22   #59
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Re: Thorny vs Thornless Path

i'm a little confused by this. Everyone mentioning the South coast of DR hasn't said one thing about the South coast of Haiti. Can't really have one without the other. What is cruising Haiti like these days?
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Old 05-12-2013, 05:08   #60
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Re: Thorny vs Thornless Path

The south coast of Haiti has only two anchorages. Ile a Vache is safe and wonderful; it is at the sw corner of Haiti and I cover it extensively in my cruising guide to Haiti which can be obtained free at Free Cruising Guides
The other anchorage is wonderful and is halfway between the DR and the sw tip of Haiti; it is Jacmel and is an old tourist town. Easy to clear in and out and a wonderful old Victorian town. However, if there is a southerly component in the wind, the anchorage is not tenable.
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