We had planned to spent some more time in Puerto Rico, but given the earthquakes, we figured the best idea was to head directly to Samaná in the Dominican Republic. And we were ready to go when the weather forecast promised us a couple of days with relatively calm weather for the passage, before the next round of high winds and waves were to start. We began the trip in the evening, leaving Salinas as the sun set. Luckily, the weather forecast was right, and the sea had calmed down enough for a relatively calm sail through the night along the south coast of Puerto Rico.
The Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic is known to be rough, and sure enough, when we reached the open sea, we had seasickness onboard for the first time in months. We were close hauled, sailing against the relatively strong wind and the big waves, but after some hours we were finally away from the main channel, the sea calmed down, we could change to a more comfortable broad reach and life became much better.
When we approached the marina in Samaná, a catamaran came up on our side, and to our surprise, we once again saw Daniel and crew on Anejo, who we have met again and again since Grenada. We shouted greetings to each other before we turned right to enter a marina for the first time since we left Recife in Brazil 7 months ago. The marina is located in a luxury resort, but the concrete pontoons themselves look more like they were made for Soviet submarines than for sailing yachts, and it turned out be an incredibly uncomfortable place for a boat in even the smallest chop. But we entered to use their check-in facilities, which turned out to be quite straightforward – and we did enjoy the access to showers and air-conditioning for a couple of days.
The marina was located some kilometers from the town of Samaná, and it appeared as if the resort owners didn’t want the tourists to have a glimpse of the “real” Dominican Republic. But one of the days we managed to get a lift to town. Here, we visited the whale museum, where we learned that the humpback whales which can be seen around Samaná in February and March are the same that you see in Cape Cod in from April to October. Later, we found the market to buy fresh vegetables – living in a resort makes it incredibly difficult to get groceries. We really liked the town, quite a contrast to the rest of the touristy windward and leeward islands, with most people making their living from something other than tourism. On the way home, we ended getting a lift from a motorbike with a passenger trailer. Interesting experience, but probably not the safest trip we have taken.
In the marina we got permission to go to Los Haitises National Park, right across the water. We arrived among the karst cliffs, the only sailboat – and the only people – in the area, and anchored close to the beautiful rock formations. We had spent less than a week in a marina, but we somehow already felt incredibly relieved to be back on the water. The area has several caves, so we took the dinghy and went exploring up the mangrove creeks, and went hiking in the caves. Here, we saw drawings from the Taino Indians, the people who lived on the Caribbean Islands before Columbus brought the Europeans across. We had fun looking for paintings of whales, crocodiles etc in the caves.
To go on a hike a bit further into the park, we took the dinghy into another creek, and arrived by a small village, from where we could see the impressive surroundings by foot. In the end we didn’t make it as far as we had hoped – we had not thought to bring mosquito spray, and were viciously attacked by the little bastards. In the end we made our way back to an eco-hotel, where we had dinner before going back to the boat.
We spent some more time exploring the area by dinghy, and could have spent several more days there – but only had permission to stay for 2 days, so way too soon we made our way back across the Samaná Bay, getting ready to head to Luperon on the north coast.
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