Monday 6 May, Dom Rep day 13: Sail from Sosua to Puerto Plata, and road trip to Cabarete, the kite-boarding Mecca.
Last night, once the tripper boats offloaded their guests and switched off the speakers, nothing else disturbed the peace of Sosua Bay. And more importantly nobody chased us off the mooring buoy. So we wake up rested and ready for the last leg of our Dominican adventure, the sail from Sosua to Ocean World Marina next to Puerto Plata, just 13 mile west.
A couple of minutes after we slipped off the lines of the monster mooring buoy, the sails are out. Genoa poled our to starboard and mainsail to port. In the early morning the wind is light, 12-15kts, and we gently roll in the big Atlantic swell as it is more to our beam than yesterday. At first the wind is offshore and the genoa is slightly in the wind shadow of the main and not pulling properly. After an hour, the trade wind fills in and moves slightly on our starboard quarter and the genoa is in clear air, sailing it by the lee, and our speed picks up from 6 to 7-8kts.
Two hours later we are approaching Ocean World Marina and furl the sails away and motor in. With the swell and wind on out port beam, we are rocking heavily as we motor in the marina channel.
The entrance is clearly marked and soon we are in the shelter, behind the marina wall. Marina attendants instruct us to go all the way in, parallel to the breakwater wall, to the last side-on slip, where they wait for us to catch the lines. All very efficient and few minutes later we are moored up. Bow into the wind and Cloudy Bay is blown away from the dock. Let’s hope it stays this way.
Not many boats in this marina, just a couple of small sailing boats and few motorboats. We are not sure what the explanation would be: either we come towards the end of the season, or the rates they charge are quite a bit higher than the rest of the marinas in DR. When we inquire in the office they tell us they get fully booked in March when the humpback whales season is and lots of boats are coming to see the whales over Silver Bank, some 70nm north of here.
Soon after our mooring lines are secured we are being descended on by a group of 5 men. They introduce themselves as army, but only one wears the gray-kaki uniform. And they demand to come onboard to inspect the boat. One of them is the marina attendant and he tells us that’s how officials operate in Puerto Plata, always board arriving boats for inspection. Even so, Oana can’t help questioning them why they need to board the boat since in none of the previous ports, as in never, no officials ever boarded us for inspection. I guess we are over-suspicious lately, after reading so many reports of DR officials demanding money to complete the entry paperwork.
The man in army uniform remains on the dock (Oana asked them to remove the shoes before stepping onboard, and he could not be bothered with that). One of his colleagues takes pictures of Cloudy Bay, from all angles. And the other two join me inside the boat, where they want to inspect inside the cupboards, under the beds, under the settee. What exactly they are looking for, we don’t know. Maybe they have drugs trafficking issues in this country? Or maybe we have watched too many movies 🙂
Meanwhile, Oana remains in the cockpit with the marina representative, filling in all the paperwork.
The inspection didn’t take long after all, and few minutes later they seem to be satisfied with what they found (or didn’t find), and we need to follow them ashore to the marina office. Where there is yet more paperwork to be filled in at the customs office, with another officer. Just how many authorities do they have in these ports? We thought that security services are the biggest employer on this island, but officials seem not to be far off. Uniformed guys are patrolling on the docks any time we glanced out.
Once they are all off our backs, we call the rental-car company which we booked a car with earlier in the morning, and ask them to deliver earlier. 20 minutes later we get picked up by Carlos, who is very surprised how we found him and why we booked a car from him and not from the big companies. Well, Google found him for us, and $30/day rental from him versus $65/day from National… it wasn’t exactly a tough decision to make. The car is a beaten up SUV, but drives both forward and reverse, so we can’t complain 🙂
We pack our things for a short drive to Cabarete which is only one hour away. But by the time we gather all the kiting gear, and a bag for an overnight (in case we decide to remain there for the night rather than driving back), there are just too many bags to carry to the car. So Pony ( our trust trolly) comes out to the rescue, making itself useful again after a very long absence.
Ocean World Marina is about 5km out of Puerto Plata, and to get to Cabarete we have to drive the entire length of Puerto Plata town. Which is rather painful, as there are lots of road works and heavy traffic. But once out of town the road gets smoother and the traffic less intense.
Mid-afternoon we arrive at the Kite Beach, which is a special place for me. It is here where I learned to kite-board 12 years ago, with Dare2Fly school. They are still here, same as is the Agualina Hotel I stayed in. And it is here where we make the first stop.
Nothing seems to have changed. Well, at least not dramatically. As in there isn’t an explosion of development like I imagined I would find after all these years. But one change does strike me, they have lost a fair bit of the beach. Used to be a lot wider.
Lots of people out kiting, and I am dying to go out and join them. But I only brought a 12sqm kite, which is too big for the 20+kts of wind. I contemplate whether I should rent a smaller kite for a couple of hours, but it’s quite late in the afternoon now and would prefer to have a full day of kiting tomorrow. So few minutes later we are checked into Kite Beach Hotel, a suite room facing the beach and right next to the swimming pool for $65. Couldn’t ask for more.
We then drive to the next bay, Cabarete town, and have a walk along the beach. A very nice wide beach, with lots of restaurants under shady palm trees. Exactly like I remembered it. I even recognize some of the bars, especially the one where I had my first mojito ever. A very interesting collection of venues: some rustic, some funky, some slightly more upmarket, but all are with feet in the sand. And with waiters chatting you up to pull you in as a customer for the evening.
And what is unusual, is that most of them advertise happy hour. But when we ask till what time is happy hour, they say all day is happy hour. So then it’s happy day not happy hour. But is it Monday happy day? Or any day is a happy day? 🙂
We stroll through all of them to take our pick. Sadly not many customers about. We settle in at Front Loop Cafe, where French youngsters are playing beach volley. So we have a relaxing time watching them play and sipping our caipirinha and mojito as the sun sets behind clouds with a pink glow over the horizon.
After a shower and relax in the hotel, we return to Cabarete beach at 9pm, hoping to find some sort of evening atmosphere. But it is all still very quiet. We sit for dinner at Lax Ojo, which seemed to be the most popular one and has a very nice decor. Modern, stylish and with some big propellers as fans above the bar. Very interesting design. We fancied watching the world go by, but there isn’t much to watch. Very few people out and about. And as the evening progresses, our hopes of it getting livelier are fast diminishing. Most venues start closing and customers get less and less. Is it because it’s Monday, or is the season over even here in the kite-surfing Mecca, where the kiting season normally lasts till August? Just where are all those youngsters whom we watched on the water few hours ago? Where are they going for their night out? Maybe they are all long asleep, to charge batteries for another day of kiting tomorrow.
And on that note we return to our hotel room earlier than we would’ve liked, and looking forward to an action day tomorrow.