We left the Bahamas under cover of night, raising anchor from our Mayaguana anchorage at three in the morning on Thursday. Saying goodbye to the Bahamas and its amazingly clear, clean water, we head east and then south to the DR (Dominican Republic, for long). This was our longest sail yet, about 35 hours and 200 nautical miles. The winds were 15-20 knots the whole time and we made good time, cruising between 5 and upper-six knots the whole way.
Friday afternoon, the rich, earthy smells of the DR wafted onboard and we could just make out ghosts of mountains – mountains! This land is so different from the dry, scrubby, coral islands of the Bahamas.
We lower our Bahamian courtesy flag and raise the yellow “Q” (Quarantine) flag (you fly this flag every time you enter a new country; once you check into customs, immigration, etc., you can lower the Q flag and fly the courtesy flag of your new country. We drop anchor in Luperon harbor and then wait for customs to arrive to check us in.
This motley crew boards the boat. I invite them inside, hand out some ginger ales and our last remaining beer, and we all sit down. They ask for our passports and boat documentation, write down numbers and names in a school notebook, then Handy Andy – the only one that knows a little English – tell us “You don’t HAVE to, but this is the time when you would give us a gift. Except you don’t HAVE to.” Luckily we are prepared for this. We didn’t want to hand out money so we brought some mini bottles of booze from the US and hand out one to each man. Handy Andy gives us a piece of paper with his services – need fuel or water for the boat? Need your garbage picked up? Need laundry done? Hey, he’ll even drop off booze to your boat!
Seemingly okay with the Canadian brandy, the Dominicans shake our hands, “gracias, gracias”, and they are off.
So, you’d think we’re officially checked into the DR now, right? Nope, it’s just the beginning. We dinghy ashore and walk to immigration where we purchase our Tourist Cards, $10 per person. Then we are ushered next door where we pay $94 for the Ministry of the Interior, then two doors down to the Ministeria de Agriculture, $10. Are we done now? Nope, the Ministeria de Agriculture wants to board our boat to look at our food…seriously?
After a few hours of charades and broken Spanish on our parts and broken English on theirs, we are done with the check-in process. Time for a Grande Presidente in a bamboo mug (for insulation).