Friday, 23 March 2012

Dominican Republic

Our friend and new crew member João Paulo spent 10 days aboard Rodeo with us, enjoying all the benefits and discomforts afforded by our vagabond life style. 
We bounced around a few anchorages, slowly making our way toward Boca Chica, where we planned to rent a car for a trip to the interior of the country. 
The first place out of Salinas we anchored was Bahia de Ocoa. A nice enough spot with a small settlement at the heart of it and upscale villas lining the bay. We played around there for a few days, taking in the local flavor and enjoying the company of our friends on Pura Vida and Katarina. Katarina had guests on board as well. Kathryn's daughter Ashley and her partner Alex came to visit for a week. John and Kathryn hosted a pot luck dinner on our last evening in Ocoa, to get everybody together before we moved on. Our contribution was a delicious Spanish Mackerel, done in a passion fruit marinade, prepared by João and Gabe. In keeping with the Brazilian theme the boys also mixed incredible rum and passion fruit cocktails we couldn't get enough of. After supper Ashley and Alex treated us to a serenade in the cockpit. They sang in harmony while Alex played guitar and João occasionally accompanied on a harmonica. With a star riddled sky above and phosphorescent waters splashing about beneath us, we went on, some singing some humming along, all the while relishing the moment. It is a tremendous blessing to have been conned into this life at sea by the one I love, and now to be able to share it with others I've come to cherish. 
Later the following day Rodeo and Pura Vida were under way once more, bearing for Puerto Palenque. Having picked up our guest, we were no longer on a schedule and we had more flexibility in terms of weather windows. We allowed ourselves the luxury of waiting for the seas to settle and the winds to lay down before we pulled anchor and headed east this time. We arrived in Palenque just as the local fishermen were gathering enormous nets strewn right across the bay. With four men per boat, one rowed along the buoyed edge of the net, while the rest pulled and piled it inside the vessel. Upon seeing us approach toward their bread and butter they waved and screamed for us to stay back. We no more wanted to get tangled up in the net than they wanted it ripped to shreds by our propeller, so we hung outside the bay until their work was done. We watched in amazement as dozens of fishermen walked the ends of the nets along the beach, pulling it ever so tighter and closer together, until its contents were scooped out ashore to be shared among all the workers. After being allowed to enter the bay we anchored near Playa Palenque, where we spent a few restless days awaiting favorable winds and a despacho from Marina de Guerra (Dominican Coast Guard). We're required to get a despacho, a stamped and signed document of permission for every new port we intent to visit. Legally this document should be provided at no charge, but Marina de Guerra has been happily accepting administrative fees from cruisers everywhere, and we had a hard time convincing the branch at Palenque that they should cough it up for free. But Gabe finally smooth talked them into giving in, and at last we were able to plan our escape. By now we have seen quite a few tourist traps, restaurants with overpriced menus, dirty, garbage strewn beaches and roads, working girls on the prowl. Though we heard good things about Palenque and we hoped to find it to be one of those pristine locations, like Bahia de las Aguilas, it wasn't. It was less than alluring and we couldn't wait to get going toward our next port of call, Boca Chica.

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