Monday, 16 February 2015

Trying to escape Santa Barbara de Samana

We have been waiting for the wind to change - it keeps coming from the west, which is not supposed to happen in the trades. But here we are. A low passed over us, very slowly, so we've had shifting light winds and vast quantities of rain. Tomorrow, the winds return to more customary patterns, and we should be able to leave.

But we couldn't stand this noise any more (motor-bikes all the time, and very loud music from dusk to 3 am, a cacophony of discos, and cars full of speakers parked on the promenade blasting their insane sounds and huge basses through the open doors to the people drinking rum on the verge) so we motored round to Bahia Escondido for the day. We weren't welcome there - much of the bay is roped off to allow guests of the 5-star hotel there, and we'd previously been prevented from walking to the beach from town by hotel security guards. So we went a little further, to a small pleasant bay we had to ourselves. Engine off, and savour the silence. Fantastic.

In our haste to get parked and switch the engine off, we hadn't appreciated that the anchor wasn't set. It was sitting on top of the sea-grass bed. I swam down for a closer look, and found the bottom too hard to place the anchor by hand. A little way off there was clear sand, and in order not to run the engine again, I decided to re-anchor by hand. It wasn't as difficult as it might sound. Take off your fins, and dive to the anchor. Picking up the anchor gives enough weight to stand and then to walk along the bottom, leaning forward to drag the chain along behind. There was no wind, so it wasn't too hard to pull the boat too. The hardest part was not to laugh at the strange strong man stunt on the sea floor.

Safely anchored, we swam and walked on the beach and sat about reading - but mostly just savouring the peace. How we've all missed it! I guess we've put up with it so long, we'd forgotten how nice a little silence could be.

I needed to get back to town to get a 'despachio' - a permit to sail to Luperon, our next destination. We wanted to leave the boat in the quiet bay, so I kayaked past Bahia Escondido and round to the town. First, the officials needed to find their copy of the last documentation they'd made for us. That took almost an hour in all, despite at times, four of us going through the folders that were pulled out of the filing cabinet. After half an hour, someone opened a folder, and I recognised our form at a glance. Here it is, I shouted. In Spanish and English. This is the document. I must have looked away for a moment, because suddenly the folder was gone, lost amongst all the others again. I have no idea what happened to it, so we all went on looking. Eventually a woman in a very tight leopard skin pattern dress and six inch heels joined us, and within 10 minutes she found it. Phew! Odd that the file could be lost at all, as since we were last in the office, just two boats have sailed away, leaving just us. Not exactly busy here!

But the form was an umpteenth copy, made through several layers of carbon paper, and much of it was illegible. So our details were laboriously taken again. It's amazing how long someone who deals with passports all the time can stare at a passport. You start to get nervous, wondering if he might be trying to remember something incriminating, but eventually points to a word on the page and asks: Is that your name?

Eventually, the form is filled and our passports are photocopied again (15 minutes to go and get the paper for the photocopier) and I expect to have the despachio handed to me, but there is a delay, and phone calls, and it becomes apparent that before I am cleared, the officials would like to see the boat. I can't make out what they want to look for there, and I explain where the boat is. I'm told I'd have to hire a water taxi to take the officials to the boat. I offer to sail the boat back to the port, but they say it will take too long. They weren't prepared to wait. So we got into the water taxi - me, a pleasant official from the Commandancia who had operated the photocopier and shared jokes, an unpleasant fellow in plain clothes from the pier who talked extremely fast and was completely unintelligible to me, and so also, a fellow to translate what the fast talker said. Us, and then a very fat dog.

The dog belonged to the taxi driver, and first we had to deliver that to another boat. Not too far out of our way, but the other boat had high sides, and the dog couldn't jump up, and it was so big and heavy, we all had to lend a hand to shove it over the side. Then on towards the boat past Bahia Escondido, where we had to drive slowly and as close as possible to the beach, so that the fast talker could look for bonitas, good looking girls. At last we reached the boat. I could see two of our crew far off on the beach, and calling my wife, was informed that she was in the shower. So the pleasant official put the despachio on the table, and that was it - time to go! I have no idea what the visit to the boat was for. But before we left, the fast talker was quite insistent that we could not spend the night where we were - we'd have to go back to the town anyway! And I had to hand over 400 pesos for the taxi driver (I offered 200, they insisted on 400, and I suspect that was 100 each).

We've really had enough of the place. I've dealt with officialdom here with patience and humour, but frankly, I'm sick of it now. Days have gone by dealing with it! And the noise. The water is none too clean, and often we have ended up side on to an unpleasant swell that frequently affects the bay.

This is not the anchorage after anchorage, each more perfect than the last, as described in our cruising guide. We're keen to get to Luperon, and as quickly as we can, leave noisy officious Dominican Republic behind to take respite (we hope!) in the Bahamas.

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