Dominican Republic 29th February – 16th March

If you wanted one word to describe the Dominican Republic it would be loud!. Music is played everywhere at full volume, even little general shops have a speaker the size of a fridge balanced on the counter cranked up to full volume. Its a lively place to be sure here, a beach to one side of the marina with lots of wooden shacks In town the other way its a crazy place, music , teaching salsa dancing in the courtyard of a hairdressing saloon, a couple dancing on the shop floor of an off-licence, bars with people outside filling the pavement.
Music here is more latin american – sort of salsa music and the buildings too very different from the rest of the Caribbean islands .

Dominican art
Dominican art

I went into Santa Domingo by bus. It is a very big bustling city and felt a little overwhelming specially when I got of the bus and had no clue whereabouts in the city I was. I got my bearings after a bit and wandered around the old colonial district. Its like another place altogether, very quiet and peaceful tidy and clean, some lovely buildings and streets, found the statue to Christopher Columbus. The rest of the city is mad by contrast, traffic with no rules street sellers street stalls noisy and busy and chaotic.
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Had some lovely pineapple – the fruit and veg here is about the best I have seen in the Caribbean and the cheapest.
I was ready to leave Boac Chica but the weather forecast was for very strong winds 35 -40 knots at the next cape and at Capo Beata around which I have to pass so stayed.
I spent an eve sitting on a crate on the pavement outside a store drinking cheap rose wine from an ice filled plastic cup with the manager from the marina. He asked me if I wanted to join him and visit his home, said he would meet me outside the office at 6 but if I wasn’t there he understand that I didn’t want to go. Well of course I wanted to go and he was pleased when I turned up and he took me on the back of his little motorbike to his house and then through some streets and alley to the store where he bought the wine and we sat and talked. His house was down some mud yard and the back yard was all earth and rocks with some assorted bits and pieces around and the living space tiny. I am sure it would horrify most westerners how they live. He said that they live like rabbits, the street are pretty crowded, most life is lived outside it seems, cheek by jowl as it were. He seem to be at work from 8 till 6 and only gets 1 day off a week, it must be a pretty tough life. Later he ran me back on his bike, getting dark, no lights, no crash hats of course and in flip flops. The roads are potholed and with open drains across them and no traffic rules it seems.
Felt a bit privileged to get some insight into life here.
Eventually the winds eased a little and after receiving my dispatchio I made an overnight passage to Salinas.

leaving Boca Chica through the reefs
leaving Boca Chica through the reefs

A lovely bay where they have extensive salt pans to get sea salt.

salt pans
salt pans

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Shortly after I arrived had 30 knots of wind and suffered a dragging anchor, the holding wasn’t so good so had an anxious and unpleasant time for a while. After a day or so I moved just around the corner as it were to Palmars de Ocoa, just another lovely beach with a little fishing town backed by mountains.

Palmar de Ocoa
Palmar de Ocoa

On then across the bay to Santa Cruz de Barahona, quite a busy town, a sheltered anchorage but not so scenic. I had thought I might stay here, perhaps visit the mountains and a big lake inland where they have crocodiles but the only place to leave a dinghy seemed to be a rough concrete wharf and there was a bad surge so decided to move on. Perhaps I was getting fed up of DR, to go from port to port you need a dispathcio from the coast guard and although official they should be free once you have paid your entrance fee for the boat, the officials ask for 20$, a bribe basically. Here they made a bit of a fuss but I just stonewalled them, said I had no dollars and eventually although they were not happy they gave me a dispatchio and exit stamped my passport.
I left at first light and sailed down the coast for about 40 miles to Capo Beata, I judged that if I rounded the cape it would be dark so I gybed and took the passage Canal de Beata between the Ilas Beata and the mainland. As soon as I gybed the boat accelerated, there must be quite a current running through here and the swell which had been troubling me all day disappeared and the depth dropped to around 4.5 to 5 metres. It was dark before I passed Cabo Falso so I could not stop at the Bay of Eagles, which would have been my last anchorage in DR, instead I carried on another 150 miles past the coast of Haiti towards Il a’ Vache.