One of the reasons we elected to make landfall in the DR at Ocean World Marina involves clearance procedures that are reputed to be less cumbersome and threatening than in other ports of entry into the Dominican Republic. We have heard all manner of stories from other cruisers about bribes blatantly sought by customs officials at the time of entry. No doubt these stories have been exaggerated over time to add interest.
Lying alongside the fuel dock on Monday morning, a boarding party of local officials asks for permission to step aboard Cutter Loose. Included in this gathering is Victor, the General Manager of the marina, a Customs official and a Navy officer dressed in a camouflage khaki uniform with highly polished combat boots. Victor also serves as the official translator, since the Customs officer and the Navy official do not speak English. Since the delegation does not wish to go below into the cabin, our brief meeting is conducted in the cockpit.
First, Victor introduces the delegation and issues two wrist bands that identify us as marina guests. He explains that security here in the marina is very tight and he urges us to wear the wristbands 24-7 until we depart so that the security personnel and other employees can identify us as guests. After reviewing our passports and ship’s papers, we are asked to complete standard clearance forms before being escorted to the on-site office of the Immigration officer. The total entrance fee is $100 USD plus $20 USD for a Dominican Republic bandera (courtesy flag).
To our relief, the clearance process could not have been more straightforward. There are smiling faces and handshakes all around welcoming us to the DR. Everyone is very polite and outgoing, including the dock master and his helper who assist us in tying up at our slip. We would later learn that this friendly demeanor is not an act. It will hold true not only during our initial check-in, but for the entire duration of our stay at the marina. Each time we pass these cheerful fellows, there are more smiles and handshakes.
No sooner are our lines secure than we fall instantaneously asleep for several hours, our bodies and minds craving rest. Later in the afternoon, Cutter Loose receives a thorough and well-deserved wash down from stem to stern.
The easterlies howl here on the north coast of the DR. Mornings are usually calm. By mid-afternoon, wind speeds in the marina are in the 20 to 25 knot range with gusts to 30 knots in frequent squalls that roll down to the ocean from the Septentrional mountain range to the southeast.
Our original plan was to pause at Ocean World for a day or two before proceeding on to the Turks and Caicos when wind and seas permit. Weather being what it is, it now appears that we will remain here until the weekend when calmer seas are expected.
Ocean World is located a few miles west of the town of Puerto Plata, population 286,000. The area west of Puerto Plata has become a popular tourist destination with several all-inclusive resorts having been developed in the past few decades. The marina complex includes a casino (presently closed), a nightclub (open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for a special reserve-in-advance floor show), a restaurant (presently closed), a liquor store/café, guest rooms, and a laundry.
An adventure park is located adjacent to the casino with animal acts (dolphins, sharks, parrots and sea lions) seven times each day. While the view of the show from our slip is limited, we can hear the announcer’s voice, the recorded music that accompanies each act and the enthusiastic response of the audience. By our second day of dockage at Ocean World, we have memorized the antics of the announcer and how the actions of the animals coincide with the recorded music that accompanies the act. Rather than attend the show, it is much more fun to speculate about what is going through the minds of these poor creatures as they are urged by their trainers to perform. It is difficult to place a value on this type of entertainment.
Beyond the Ocean World complex is a large resort complex with hundreds of villas, hotel rooms, beaches and several pools. While on a morning walk, we are intercepted by an employee driving a golf cart that volunteers to “show us around the resort”. He drops us at the hotel lobby and hands us off to another resort employee. It all ends badly two hours later when we explain that under no circumstances would we be willing to purchase a membership in their vacation club.
On Wednesday, a rental car takes us on a sightseeing excursion into the town of Puerto Plata. In the town square, we are quickly intercepted by a friendly tour guide.
The primary mode of transportation in Puerto Plata is motorbikes. There are literally thousands of them on the city streets. Moto-taxis provide rapid, inexpensive transportation to one’s destination of choice. They rarely ride with the flow of traffic or obey stop signs or traffic signals. This makes for an interesting driving experience in Puerto Plata.
The next stop is Pescaderia Jhoan in the Village of Maimon where we are treated to a fresh seafood lunch consisting of grilled chillo, plantains and red beans with rice.
From here, it is on to the tiny seaside village of Luperon, which has become the permanent residence of dozens of cruising sailors who enjoy the authenticity of the town and the affordable lifestyle. Near the waterfront are two bars that offer free WiFi.
The anchorage is well-protected, but the water is putrid. This underscores the fact that many cruisers do not require an abundance of amenities in order to feel fulfilled and comfortable.
The road to Luperon leads through rural countryside where ranching is a way of life. Along the roadside are gatherings of men and beasts who seem to enjoy one another’s company.