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Thread: Another reason Cruisers are skipping the DR.

  1. #1
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    Default Another reason Cruisers are skipping the DR.

    New despacho dispositions in Dominican Republic

    There is a new administrative disposition in Dominican Republic. It is suppose to protect the sailors and the fishermen from bad weather risks.
    The Armada is still giving the « despacho » but, nowaday, under the order of a « weather coordinator ». I should write « wheater ? Coordinator ? ». Colonel Perratas Mieres is the one in charge for the time being, and believe me, he will protect you more than any « chicken mother » could ever think of.
    For example, when 25 knots wind are forecasted on Puerto Plata and Samana (Atlantic coast), the « man from Santo Domingo » will hold all despachos for the Carribbean Coast too, even if it´s forecasted 5 to 8 knots gusting 12 ! The result is you cannot (and surely not have to even try) left the place you’re in ! It´s like if someone, in your birthland, says : « Fresh wind forecasted in the Great Lakes, California Coast is closed »
    This is why we had to stay 4 supplementary days in Salinas.
    To get an international despacho, we had to go to Barahona, an easy 30 miles step from Salinas.
    There, same story. 7 days and 30US$ for prolongation of the stay ! Winds between 5 to 15 knots, seas 1 to 2 feet. And it lasted 7 days.
    We tried to explain the « boat built to cross oceans » and « weather knowledges and facilities to get forecasts » concepts but the commandantes of the Armada are totally afraid of Potatoes Mieres, and were only checking at the SMS sended by the un-knowledgeabal colonel, answering us : « Mañana... may be ». The colonel Piratas Mieres see no difference between a light fishing embarcation and a 40 feet long range cruiser. I really believe he see no difference between 10 knots and 35 knots wind either.
    At least, when the wind start to blow a little, « the-man-who-never-have-a-look-at-his-windows » decided everything will be delivered soon.
    It took 1 more day to get everything in order -40 US$ of mandatory propina included but not due- and to be freed from our chains, and I mean it, because you really feel like in prison in your boat.
    Thank you to Sarayu for their support all along this unsupportable episode. This is an experience I’ll hope to never experiment again.

  2. #2
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    With a northerly coming in, we opted to cruise the south coast of DR to have a quick look and in passage West. We checked in at Boca Chica, reading from the free cruisers guide that immigration facilities are available there. The guide warns of an agent type here who proposes to process your entry requirements. This guy must have been a leading time share salesman in a previous life, requiring $250 for his services. That's ok if your prepared to accept the cost, but based on TOTAL MISINFORMATION, that he gives you it can sway your decision. The immigration dept in in the Marina grounds and the Despachio is available outside the Marina (turn left and walk maybe 2 K)
    Despacho, or permit to leave and enter the next port are a requirement here, there is no escaping it. We were further delayed down the track, a night in Punta Salinas. It's a pleasant enough anchorage. A hotel that is mentioned in the cruisers guide is well kept clear of, first world prices for barely third world service. A nearby local restaurant to the west is eager to have your business and has a dingy dock.

    After a delay here of a day for our despacho, due to weather conditions we motor sailed to Barahona. Again a well protected anchorage with friendly locals. Here our travel plans where totally stalled. Clear skies, forecasts of perhaps 20 at most knots to the south around Isla Beata, ( maybe 10 knots around us) perfect sailing conditions downwind. We waited here 6 days for a despacho, with a Navy vessel in the harbour looking for an excuse to have a run, we were not allowed to leave. No amount of head banging, grovelling, could persuade the authorities to grant us our despacho.

    DR is a pleasant enough cruise on the south coast. There is a lot of plastic floating and on shore, but good enough infrastructure is available for the cruiser.
    Would I go there again? Not right now, that's for sure.

  3. #3
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    My experience at the Ocean World Marina at Cofresi near Puerto Plata supports the extortion assertion. I was stuck there for 7 days trying to get crew.

    The marina only has solid concrete piers with about 8-12" of fenderable surface near the top. Even for my tall catamaran at low tide it was almost over my deck. So you had to suspend the boat between these piers far enough off to avoid tidal problems. There was a constant swell. The boat acted like a weight on a spring going back and forth storing and releasing energy in the lines. The tension on the cleats demanded 24x7 attention as the tide changed or the boat would spring back against the cleats with 26,000 lbs of undue force. The power boat in the slip next to mine did have one of its mooring cleats torn out of the fiberglass. I constantly cringed at the pressure noise on my cleats and the squeaking of the lines. I was told the nearest source for snubbers was Santo Domingo.

    Anyway, I finaly was ready to depart at 9am except for the port commandant. And he said no for the "safety" and national policy reasons stated above. That another boat had left the day before in worse conditions made no difference. We had to stay and couldn't even talk to the commandant. It is interesting to note that customs and immigration personnel are actually paid by the marina to reduce abuse.

    Finally, about 1 pm a flunkie told us the commandant had children he needed to feed and would let us depart after 6pm for $60. I only had a 50€ note and that was accepted. A little before 6pm some military types came by and gave us written permission.

    It is important to note that the entrance to the marina is horrible with a big breakwater on one side, reefs on the other, and breaking waves in and out of the channel. The choice of 6pm put us exactly at low tide. One super yacht had come in a few days before, struck the reef, fired the captain, and was waiting for a determination to tow or repair. Fortunately the waves are breaking straight into the harbor. Faced with certain hell staying put and a difficult few hundred yards I decided to leave and then realized that the boat that departed the day before after 6pm had probably been in the same straits. Nothing to do with safety, just and excuse to extort some money.

    I was most concerned about losing rudder control with the breakers in the narrow channel so we entered with both engines at 3,000 rpm. I slowed down a little when even the tall flotation bows of the Lagoon 400 took waves over them. Crossing the Atlantic had nothing on this departure. Somewhere in the process our bowsprit broke (partly from a faulty installation) and the shaft broke on our hydro charger, also. I slowed down a little and we exited to the open sea full of thanksgiving. A friend who observed from a balcony on land said it looked horrible.

    So, not only are they arbitrary and uneducated in their departure bans, but when they are bribed to let you out you might get the worst possible time.

    I won't go back. Be careful out there and go easy on your fellow sailors who may be facing difficulties you don't understand

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  5. #4
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    Not a lot of stories about cruising the DR but it sounds like this is why many people avoid it. As you pointed out the DR does not put out the welcome mat for cruisers. This is the kind of story that gives the DR a bad reputation and deservedly so. It's sad but not surprising that these officials behave this way.

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