March 31, 2023
It’s Friday and the week has vanished before my eyes, but it was busy, not boredom. The Dominican Republic is a scenic country and I have seen quite a bit of it, but it all happened so fast and without crises, perhaps it has made me immune to its charms.
Last week after arriving in Samana, we rented a car to see a bit of the environs near the marina. Samana is a bustling hub and despite its attempts at being a tourist destination, it has a very distinct local feel to it. We saw few tourists, except for the whale watching boats.
On Saturday, Jinhee and Megan went on a whale watching tour and I stayed ashore as they were expecting bumpy conditions. Apparently others were more insistent than I was and quite a few people were throwing up.
The group did get to see some whales, but not a lot of excitement (breaching, etc). I sat by the pool, which is unusual for me, but it seemed a wiser choice.
Sunday was a busy day. Jinhee and Megan returned to Canada and arrangements had previously been made to depart from Punta Cana, so we started driving at 6:30am for the four to five hour drive to the airport. It turned out to be closer to a four hour drive and so we had some time to kill, but Megan added to her Starbucks mug collection as we sipped beverages at the local Starbucks.
My friend Steve Lightstone needed some relaxation and sunshine before taking up a new job opportunity, so he arrived into Punta Cana at the same time as Jinhee was taking off. We drove back to Samana, catching up on lives lived as we drove through the Dominican countryside.
The path between Samana and Punta Cana is a bit long, but it also gives you a tremendous sense of the country and it’s variety. The mountains on the north of the country give way to plains in the middle and south that look fertile and hostile at the same time.
There is a noticeable difference in material items such as cars and homes. We passed through a a lot of police checkpoints where they were stopping speeders apparently. The good news is that we were not speeding because the car we had had a massive imbalance in the wheels and the car was shaking significantly at higher speeds.
The sights were varied from men riding donkeys and sometimes small horses, lots of motorcycles and nearer to Santo Domingo, cyclists were out in large packs for a Sunday morning ride, often protected by a follow vehicle. On the path back, just north of Santo Domingo we took a smaller road that took us right past ‘baseball academy’ sites for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. The ‘wealth’ was notable within a few miles of these sites. Outside of these areas the (more typical) local economy was noticeable and I think quite dynamic.
On the road east, back to Samana (road 5), the locals were out in full force on Sunday evening. Local watering holes (bars) were hopping and motorcycles were everywhere. If I had to guess, they don’t have a lot of tv and cell phones and video games and were out in their communities enjoying themselves. Despite the clear lack of wealth, the people seem remarkably happy.
In any event we did arrive back at the boat before dark (best not to drive after dark here apparently, as vehicles run without lights and the roads are not as dependable as in North America.). We ate a quick meal and slept well.
Tuesday offered a weather window to move the boat to Punta Cana and we departed the marina around 1pm with an intention to make it a two day trip. The winds were still strong and the waves a bit more than was ideal, but the timing was right for my objective of giving Steve an appropriately broad experience of life aboard.
We travelled for about four hours to Miches, and slowly worked our way in toward shore to anchor. The charts in the DR are not very good, and navionics just says “<16 feet”. I nudged into depths around 10 feet and anchored. The surge from the ocean still rocked the boat, and I deployed the stabilizer to reduce the roll.
On Wednesday we made the final 10 hour run to Punta Cana. The seas had settled as expected, however it was still bumpy and slow and both Steve and I managed to avoid sea sickness for the journey.
The final approach to the marina (Cap Cana) is fraught with risk and we were met with the image of a sailboat that had just grounded (that day we found out). It’s an uncomfortable feeling when you see that at a new entrance.
After cleaning the boat, we ate a very uninspiring lunch at the local restaurant overlooking the water, and spent some time at the beach.
There is a lot of open capacity here. Similar to the marina in Samana (Bannister Hotel), there doesn’t appear to be many tourists. We spoke to some American owners at the resort in Samana and they say that things pick up in April, particularly at Easter, and we heard the same thing here. During the summer, the fishing boats overwhelm the place, but there are a lot of empty spots right now both in the condos as well as slips. It’s hard to see how the economics can work! Most of the retail is simply closed and looks to be in that state permanently.
Today Steve departs, tomorrow Jinhee returns and the next (as yet unknown) part of the adventure begins. Antigua here we come…